The Final Cut

FinalCutThe Final Cut, a sci-fi movie starring Robin Williams, is an externalized illustration of the brain’s process of creating memories. The movie stresses how our belief in the truth of what we remember is often flawed by our limited perception and skewed interpretation of any given event, including every day activities.

In the movie, some people have opted to have chips implanted in their heads to record all their daily activities. Robin Williams is a cutter (an editor) of memories, who is brought in after someone dies. His job is to take those recordings and create a feature-length ‘film’ of memories as a keepsake for the deceased person’s family and friends.

Robin is the personification of what our own brains do, which is to analyze, edit, and store memories. Out of the millions of stimuli that we encounter every minute of every day, our brains decide what is worth keeping and what isn’t. It also needs to interpret those bits and pieces, and then determine how to fit them together into some type of cohesive event.

For instance, in getting ready to go to work, there is input from kids, spouse, TV/radio, emails, texts, pets, neighbors, and neighborhood. Your brain must decide what to take in and what to leave out, put it all together into some pattern that makes sense, and then store it under the heading “May 4, 2017, Thursday morning” (or something to that effect).

Now, if it’s very similar to every other morning, it may not even get a special title. It may just be entered into a group file called, “weekly mornings.” That makes it harder to pull out and review later, because it’s simply lumped with every other early morning routine. So, if someone asks if you brushed your teeth, you’ll probably say, “yes,” because that’s what you do every day. But what if you didn’t? What if, for some reason, you ran out of time, so skipped that step in your routine. It wasn’t a big enough deal for your brain to create a separate file for that day, so you can never be sure whether you really brushed them or not. But say your tire was flat and you had to take public transportation. That is different enough that the memory probably got its own little storage file. Especially, if you encountered someone strange and interesting on the bus or train that you had to take.

So, not every memory is sacred to your brain, and not every memory can be recalled in detail. Add to that the fact that your brain also has ego telling it what to do. Ego doesn’t like to look bad, so it’s going to tell your brain to skew certain things in your favor. Just like the cutter in the movie, you will store your memories, but some will ‘need’ a bit of editing.

Did you and your girl/boyfriend just break up? Well, obviously, it wasn’t your fault. Even if it was, it wasn’t; and that is what your brain will record in your memory. Did you just lose your job? Again, that memory will only be stored once the editing is done. The loss was a positive; the loss wasn’t your fault; the job was beneath you. All the details leading up to and including the day the event occurred will support this positive conclusion. While any of the ‘facts’ that don’t support the conclusion will be forgotten (or edited out). So, instead of seeing yourself as the one who was always neglectful, late, and irresponsible, it will be the person you were dating. Therefore, the memories your brain stores will support that conclusion, and any memories that indicate otherwise, will be eliminated from long-term storage.

Everyone wants to believe that their memories are truthful and infallible, but unfortunately, we all carry our own editor around with us everywhere we go. That means that every memory is just one version of reality. It also means that every person who was involved in the event, even just those every day occurrences such as getting ready for work, has their own version, their own memory.

So, the next time you question (even in your head) how someone could be recalling a moment or a day so differently from how you recall it, remember that you all have your own editor. And that editor has its own agenda and its own perceptions.

The reason is hope…

A friend and I were wandering down memory lane and she started talking about how she had looooved the show McGyver (starring Richard Dean Anderson). I had only seen the show once or twice, so although I knew the concept I wasn’t all that sure why it had been such a big hit with her or all the other viewers.

She told me it was the cleverness of the character, how he always found a way to overcome a bad situation.  That no matter what, he could use his roll of duct tape, his Swiss Army knife, and a few other odds and ends that he would find (such as a ball point pen, a tube of toothpaste, or the excrement from a bug) and create some fantastic yet believable method of escape. On top of that, she said, he was cute.

Over the past few weeks, I found my thoughts wandering back to what she had said and I realized I was rather intrigued. There had to be more to it then just the tricks and the fact that he was cute. Millions of people around the world had loved the show enough to keep it on the air for seven years. In fact, it had been so popular that it had even sparked a new dictionary term: the McGyverism — a novel solution to a difficult problem usually involving common household items used in unique ways. (How many TV shows can claim that?)

I spent the next few months working McGyver into conversations, trying to see what other people remembered about the show and about their reasons for watching it. In talking to some folks, I found that even their kids loved watching the show, which is now shown on the Sleuth channel on cable. They, like their parents, found the “never say never” spirit of the character endearing and inspiring.

That was it, I realized…that spirit. It was that unflagging spirit, that consistent message of hope that the main character always projected that people loved. This was a guy that no matter how dire the circumstances, no matter how badly injured (physically, mentally, or emotionally), he never gave up his hope. And this wasn’t the wishy-washy type of hope that “Gee, maybe someone will come along and rescue us.” This was the true meaning of hope, which is the confident expectation of completing or fulfilling a wish or desire.

In other words, self-confidence. McGyver was filled with self-confidence and he expressed it in each episode as an overarching feeling of hope. When others around him were feeling defeated, he’d always have that hope. But while that’s a big part of it, there was more. He also had the ability to look outside the usual boundaries. We all place boundaries on ourselves, but was able to look beyond those boundaries and see opportunities. He was able to see other uses for common things. Granted, in his reality he was a walking encyclopedia of knowledge (mechanic, engineer, chemist), which few of us are, but how often are we going to be caught in a life and death situation (certainly not once a week like him;-).

Yet, we could all take a page from McGyver’s book and learn to cultivate that hope, that well of self-confidence, which could help us view our own lives from a different and unique perspective. Take a look at your life: is it really a problem with the boss or is it an opportunity to change the way you relate to each other? Are there medical issues that you just don’t know how to cope with? Maybe it’s a chance to learn more about your own condition so that you can focus the direction of your own treatment instead of relying on others.

Most of us look at the pitfalls of our lives and we stop. We feel as if we’re facing a canyon or a wall as huge as the Great Wall of China. But we need to be more like McGyver. We need to learn to have hope. We then need to use that hope, that self-confidence, to find other options. Remind yourself daily, that you can do this–after all, you have more than just a roll of duct tape and a Swiss Army knife, you have hope.

What Shape is Your “House” In?

The physical body is the form we wear while here in the reality we call life. It is made by us, for us, and everything we do to it affects us—the entire being that we are. Having a body is like owning a house, and just like a house, if you don’t take care of it, it will fall apart on you. There’s no landlord to call, because you’re not renting. So, if the windows are broken (you need glasses) or the plumbing backs up (gastric distress), you need to do something about it.

It doesn’t matter if you paint the outside of your house (make up and/or clothes) or whether you keep the lawn trimmed (hair cuts). What matters is how well you maintain the house itself.

Many things can affect you and your body, some that you have no control over, or so it seems. After all, is it your fault that the air is full of smog and you can’t breathe properly? Perhaps not completely, but did you do anything to help decrease the smog? Or perhaps you feel that you have no control over the amount of noise you’re subjected to because you live in a big city. However, there are ways to avoid the noise—and moving into a suburb is only of those options.

Now, in some cases you may endure an injury that you truly didn’t have any way to avoid. While rare, accidents do occur, how you take care of yourself and allow yourself to heal plays an important part in how the overall you feels and recovers.

Your body is more than just a temporary shell—it is always a part of you, of the essence that is you. Because even when you die, the energy that you used to create the body you used, is merged back into you so that you can create another form for another life. So, how you feel about yourself and how you value yourself is reflected in how you treat yourself.

Now, my own body has taken some abuse, and many times I feel much older than I am because of the aches and pains. You see. I’ve been in quite a few car accidents and while some may have been avoided, none of them were. While some were chosen directly in an effort to learn a lesson or to set something in motion, others were simply the result of my chief feature—impatience. By allowing impatience to lead, I made some foolish choices, and the results culminated in either auto versus auto, or auto versus bicycle. Either way, my body has taken a lot of physical stress and abuse due to these “accidents”, so now, each time I overextend myself now, it takes longer and longer to recover.

However, it isn’t just my body that suffers, it’s my overall being. Because when my body is that worn out, my energies feel depleted, and my mind is unable to focus or think coherently. So, all-in-all, I simply need to let the whole being rest for a day (or maybe 2 or 3).

It’s hard sometimes, because I’ll get immersed in a project—like putting in a flower bed, painting the living room or removing wall paper from the bedroom in the house we just bought—and once started, I hate to take a break until I get it finished. However, by pushing myself like that, I find myself needing days, sometimes up to a full week, to recover.

Indiana Jones makes the comment, “…It isn’t the years, it’s the miles…” and I agree. If I hadn’t battered my poor body in all of those car accidents by always being in such a hurry, I wouldn’t have such a hard time keeping up now. After all, the things I do aren’t really all that strenuous; it’s just that my body has been so broken and battered, that my energies don’t always flow properly anymore. Therefore, it takes twice as long as it should for me to recover from doing anything.

For more information on health, healing and the physical body try Michael on Health and Healing.