The Art of Forgetting, and Letting Go

This semester, I'm auditing one of the most powerful seminar's I've ever taken with Meghan Sullivan on diachronic rationality, time bias, and death. The seminar meets at her house once a week, and we read excerpts from her work, and from various other experts in the area. Tonight we scheduled a special session to watch and discuss the movie Still Alice, starring Julianne Moore. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It's a beautiful meditation on living with a serious, life-altering illness. And the acting is insanely good.

The movie follows a linguistics professor through her struggle with early onset Alzhiemer's disease. Each scene basically shows the next step in her rapid decline, and along the way we see her family's struggle to keep up with the abrupt and upsetting transition. To give you a sense of the movie, here's a clip from the climax of the movie, where Alice (the title character) gives a speech about her experience to a group of researchers, doctors, and other patients:

This is a beautiful speech. Of course, it's not wholly reliable as to the point and message of the film (as you'd expect with any climactic speech given by the main character of a film), but it is insightful.

The thing about it, though, that really sticks with me (and this is true not just for the speech, but for the movie as a whole), is this emphasis on the main character's disease as an opportunity to perfect the "art of losing" or "the art of forgetting." Really, both a species of "the art of letting go."

I don't think that we're very good at this in general. Letting go, that is. Usually, letting go is something forced upon us by external circumstances. A move or transition, a departure or death. But why not let go more? Why hold on so tightly to so many meaningful things in our lives? Why not recognize more often that someone or something has played its part in our life, and that it's time to move on? This is counter-intuitive for a number of reasons, but I'm not sure we should let what's natural drive us here. The art of forgetting -- of gracefully letting go -- is something I'd like to be better at. I'm going to try, in the next few weeks, to see if there are opportunities to grow in this area in different aspects of my life.