It was like seeing a ghost. Except, the ghost was me, and I'm still alive.
The first startling image that popped up in my Facebook feed yesterday was of the 1970 (I believe) wedding of my best friend in elementary and high school, Ken Hart.
I have absolutely no memory of the wedding. I haven't given a single thought to it, so far as I know, for as long as I can remember.
Yet... I obviously was there. Well, let's put it this way: Brian Hines was there. Is this the same person as the guy who is writing this blog post?
We have the same body. We have the same name. There is a certain continuity between the me of 1970 and the me of 2015.
But also important discontinuities. Being surprised by this photo made me realize how little I recall of most of "my" life. Having forgotten this wedding until now, what else has escaped my conscious memory?
A hell of a lot. Almost everything, in fact.
Plus, the images I do have of what happened to me in the past are highly selective. Neuroscientists assure us that memories aren't like photos or videos -- reliable replicas of actual occurrences.
Memories quickly turn into second-order reflections of themselves, memories of memories, so to speak. With every retrieval, every pondering, the brain adds and subtracts from the original memory.
So not only have I forgotten most of my life, what I do remember is almost certainly far from an accurate account of what I actually experienced. Thus, the me of today arguably is a very different person from the me of yesterday.
Which helps explain why, when I look at the photo above, I sort of feel like I am viewing myself, while also feeling like I am gazing upon another person.
Same applies to another photo that someone shared soon after the first.
A commenter asked, "Were you in church?"
Since at this time (1970'ish also, I assume) I was heavy into Eastern mysticism/meditation, though Ken and I seemed to be in a church -- the photo is reversed, so the sign behind us is hard to read -- I wasn't there to worship.
So what was I doing in a sports coat and tie, standing rather formally next to my old friend? I don't know. I'm clueless.
If someone else other than me had been photographed standing next to Ken, I would know just the same amount about what they were doing at the time. Nothing.
But since this is me, not someone else, shouldn't I have at least a glimpse, a hint, an intuition about what the photograph represents?
No. That's not how life works.
Except, I guess, for those rare people blessed, or cursed, with the ability to remember in detail everything that they have ever experienced. I definitely am not one of those people. I've already forgotten much of what I did and thought today.
Thinking about what I might say in this blog post during my dog walk a few hours ago, my thoughts were pleasantly distracted by a full moon, a setting sun, and the community lake we were walking around.
At first I just tried to absorb the beauty of what I was seeing, feeling that if I was mindful enough of this moment, maybe it would remain with me for the rest of my life.
But those old photographs argued against that.
So I snapped a few photos with my iPhone. Just for the heck of it. The present moment really is mostly (maybe all) we have. Yet moments don't last, while photos do.
People -- me, you, everybody -- also don't last. Ken died a few years ago. I don't remember exactly when. I hadn't seen him for a long time. I wish we had kept in touch, but wishes aren't reality. Only what actually happens is.
So I'm grateful for those old photos of Ken and me. Even though I don't remember those times when we were together, I do remember many other moments with my old friend. Those, I hope, will never fade from memory.
Yet if they do, so be it. The moon also is no longer over Spring Lake, nor is the sun setting over the coast range.