“Memory can change the shape of a room; it can change the color of a car. And memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation, they’re not a record, and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.” -Leonard, Memento
Hume and Leonard could have gotten along if we were looking strictly at their thoughts about memory: that it is unreliable and just an interpretation of an event. The idea that a traumatizing memory can be altered, even deleted if your mind designates the memory a harm to you . Leonard’s memories of his wife’s death and of Sammy Jenkins are very reflective of this: he accidentally killed his wife with an insulin overdose because of his condition, and yet his memory of that is so distorted that a fictional insurance customer is now the killer of his wife. He is right to say that memory isn’t reliable, but neither are the jumble of notes he keeps on his photographs and tattooed on his body.
At least not to the extent that he depends on them. He expects all these tattoos and pen markings to practically function as his second memory without the consequences that comes from relying on memory. His notes can still be distorted and not have a single fact on them – he likes crossing things out, or can’t find a pen to make a record of something. If these facts are being recorded from a memory that rewrites itself on a regular basis, are those facts still facts? Any true fact should constantly come to light regardless of how your memory or notes keep track of them – the only fact Leonard actually has is that Sammy Jenkins killed his wife. That is an undeniable truth for our main character and yet he can easily deny the truth that he is in fact Sammy Jenkins.
Hume might be right when he says that identity is just a habit we have. We reinforce our identities by doing things that our “self” would do, right? But that sense of self is trained by your memory, this perception of a wide range of other perceptions. You can train yourself to have a habit, and henceforth you can train yourself to have an identity. Can that identity be changed? Yes, in fact – just takes a few habit adjustments, and wallah, you’re a new version of yourself. Hell, you might even become a brand new person, someone with a different name and a different version of your self.
Word Count: 413