Lately as I have two projects waiting to be edited, my thoughts are on that process; what it means, what I’m aiming for, how to go about it, what to put in, what to take out and when to stop (always a problem as I can’t help going through taking out commas and putting them back again.) But whether or not we write, we are all editors of our lives: we edit our thoughts, our speech, our actions and our memories. This is not necessarily done with malicious intent – it may often be necessary – but sometimes like spring cleaning it’s good to take out the mind, give it a good deep clean and see what’s lurking at the back of the cupboard.
We all live in societies, and these societies make certain basic demands of us; that we behave in a certain way towards each other and avoid certain words and phrases. At best these are reasonable, such as the demand that we should not run another car off the road or barge into other shoppers in the mall or steal an old woman’s purse. Those who flout these rules are punished (yes, even Prince Phillip was forced to give up driving.) At worst the rules are oppressive, but in every case, as Orwell observed, we learn to edit our thoughts as well as our behaviour.
Then there’s the editing of memories. I know I do this a lot and it’s quite disturbing: for example, when I’ve had a terrible evening out I may well edit it the next day and replay it as ‘not too bad.’ Is that dishonest or is it merely a wish not to dwell on the negative? On the other hand I’ve had experience of editing a positive experience to make it so-so – and why would I do that? Is elation too hard to cope with? Is it easier to have a homogenised life?
Editing the memory is something we all do but it can be terribly dangerous. We wonder how those concentration camp guards can live with themselves – well that’s how. They just don’t remember it like it happened. And don’t even get me started on Donald Trump. I could say that the invention of videotape means people can’t get away with false memories, but as we know, videotape can also be edited. Not to mention faked. Hey, ho.
As for us ordinary, non-Nazi mortals, we probably can’t help editing our memories but we can stand back and observe; notice that it’s happening and ask ourselves why.
Today’s editing is that I shall be cutting the p-word out of my life. I shall be forgetting all about p*l*t*c* for the day and going to Leicester where I shall enjoy the shops and cafes, go to the Mothercare closing down sale and visit a friend in hospital.
But first I have to edit this post…