It’s all a lie.

We lie to ourselves without even trying.

Over the past few years there’s been lots of talk about False Memory Syndrome.

We’re swimming in a raging turbulent river of false memories – both in our personal stories and those that chronicle the entirety of humankind.

I’ve been reminded lately that what we “know” to be totally true from our younger years may just be a fractional truth with a good-sized dollop of “memory muscle on steroids”. False memory syndrome.

Remember the big house you grew up in? The one you visited again years later, and it’s much smaller than you recall?

My old home on Rainbow Drive in Hamilton sure is. How did 6 of us ever live together in that shoebox? How did my Dad ever squeeze an in-ground swimming pool into that tiny city lot?

Or the immensity and majesty of the horse you sat on for that now-yellowing photo taken by Mom, and how over the years the huge stallion where your legs didn’t quite reach the stirrups mysteriously transformed into a small pony.

We have a picture book of stories in our head, but is it reality, or the imaginings of a romantic mind?

mind images

Do you believe memories are real and trustworthy?

The second that a moment slips into our past, it becomes a malleable impression for kneading and manipulating by our inner interpreter.

Sure, obvious facts remain intact – the date and time of our birth, the names of our ancestors – but very quickly the steamy temperature of that humid August day in the Rockies and the whopping length of the fish that got away morph into a slippery new world of fiction.

How can I trust any collective knowledge we have about actual history? We constantly rewrite our own memories, and we constantly rewrite history. We see the past through the lens of our current, very personal, eyes.

When I was a schoolboy, explorer Christopher Columbus was a European hero who “discovered” North America and made my beautiful world possible. HAIL Columbus!

Somehow, while I was boyishly crushing on my pretty blond teacher Miss Taylor as she outlined Columbus’s glories at the front of my Grade 4 classroom, she left out that small part about Native peoples’ annihilations with weaponry and merciless viral diseases brought along in the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. Not to mention that Leif Eriksson touched down in Newfoundland almost 500 years earlier.

Why would you lie to me Miss Taylor?

Our memories of events change, evolve, grow, embellish with time.

This all makes me suspicious of ANY history.

History and its stories for the most part are written from the memory banks of human beings, people looking back and recalling the events as they occurred from their own personal perspective. Hatred, love, compassion, heartbreak and ecstasy all change the nuance and colour of the crayon colouring of the picture.

This is the nature of all our lives and the reason that we men have hoisted this “6 inches can be divided four times by the length of a 12 inch ruler” fiction on women. (don’t worry if you missed my point here!)

The-fish-that-got-away.jpgAre we talking fish … or something else??

Sensational stories make for better history and also an improved recollection of the moments of our lives?

Who amongst us wishes to believe our days and life highlights were really just mundane minutes amplified from within.

I think we all want our lives to reflect something bigger, something better than they may have truly been. This is a good thing, because we should all believe we’ve lived a life of meaning and importance, whether a tadpole in a small pond, or a shark in a huge ocean.

My own interior false memory syndrome memory of my hockey prowess is built upon a single game played on soft outdoor ice on a November evening sometime in the mid-1960’s. Under the floodlights on that night I (factually) scored 7 goals for my Parkdale Steelers against the opponent team.

Yet years of inner mind-manipulation have transformed that one glorious event into something akin to how I was “this close” to being the next Bobby Orr or Wayne Gretzky. I became a bigger “house” than the facts would ever bear out as true. And I’m just fine with that.

When I step down after performing, playing my guitar and singing on a small stage, the inner movie that shines on the walls of my mind is that of a famous rock star, a revisionist story of myself as Elton John.

Am I seeing and remembering reality or just an imagined vision? And … does it matter? What hurt am I inflicting by making myself bigger and better?

Have you noticed at family gatherings when aunts and uncles, or brothers and sisters, chat about events of the past, the stories sound very different to your own even when they are about the same moment in time?

Those moments have all been sifted and recalled through a different filter in each mind present. What was so obviously happiness and joy for Aunt Cathy somehow looked like sadness or rejection from your perspective.

Your reality is different from mine. We each have to interpret our lives in a way that makes sense to us. The books, the music, the movies you love so much will not be exactly the same as those I treasure.

It’s not truly important that our memories and recollections of our own personal histories reflect “facts” and a full reality. Reality is of our own making and choosing – a collage of our own interpretations.

I’m still happily living in my own little “Walter Mitty” world where I depart from my enormous Downton Abbey Castle each morning to score the big game winning touchdown for my Hamilton Tiger-Cats before singing to a SOLD OUT audience that evening in Madison Square Gardens alongside Billy Joel.

It’s my party and I’ll decide which memories are true or false.

WTF! It’s all true. Just ask my “good pal” Martha Stewart, “… and that’s a  good thing!

martha stewart.jpg