Memory is parallax

This is actually the name of a V14 boulder problem (V14 means it’s impossible for 99.999% of all humans) established by Dave Graham, a scary smart and scary strong climber. The name of it resonated with me even before I started thinking (more) strangely.

Parallax is a term from astronomy that basically says that an object (a star or whatever) will appear different to the observer if the position of observation is changed. And so it is with memory too. Actually even with perception in general. Remember the Anais Nin quote of seeing things as we are? Do you see how it applies? It’s funny I guess; we are all just a small shift in perspective away from seeing things differently, from being able to add even a minute amount of new information to our best thinking and improve it.

Is it a 6 or a 9? Depends on your point of view, right?

The shadow of a cylinder can be a circle or a rectangle – it just depends on the direction of the light source.

Yet we cling so tightly to our point of view. And we suffer because of it. Our judgments – the pattern of interpreting and giving meaning to information and the emotions associated with said pattern – blind us to other possibilities.

I experienced this today while praying. We are doing a thing at church, 24 hours of prayer, where individuals take an hour and do nothing but pray. We followed the ACTS model: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. And as I confessed my brokenness my deep-seated self hatred popped up. But then I had to consider this through the lens of thanksgiving. God had made me this particular way and so my “wobbles” have value. I judge the hell out my wobbles though so the shift in perspective is always difficult. The facts and the fiction become blurred. And as I prayed for various loved ones my brokenness poked through, my awareness of the harm I caused (or at least how I judge it.)

It was tough. When I left I felt a hollowness, a sense of having been poured out without anything put in. This is how God works with me, He forces me to learn patience. I prayed “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” So now I have to be patient and listen to what He has to say. I will be learning patience until I die it seems, because thus far I am not very good at it. My childish emotional mind demands I hold onto its point of view, while the rest of my mind struggles against it, seeking other more useful (and accurate) perspectives.

This idea of parallax aligns with what Daniela Schiller wrote about in her work on re-writing. The re-writing comes from allowing one perspective to just exist while considering and adding in other information. In a sense this is what I was doing in my prayer time. I “checked the facts” of my memories (the haunting ones) and then considered other factors, including how those things have helped me become who I am in a valuable sense. This actually works, but be patient and manage your expectations of some outcome. Don’t create a filter of expectation that will blind you to deeper understanding.

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