One of my dad’s favorite shows on TV is Kings of Restoration. It’s a show where people bring in something old and broken, then the guys in the show try to fix it. When I first watched it, I was a bit skeptical. Why would you bring in this old broken down thing to have it repaired, when you could just buy something brand new? It will look very much different from the old one you brought in after it’s fixed. I had the same sentiments with the old MTV show Pimp My Ride. You have to admit, the cars end up incredibly unrecognizable after they’re done with it. Would that barely recognizable thing still carry the same sentimental value you put on it?
A special friend of mine just told me today that she tore the lining of the stuffed toy I gave her for Christmas. I don’t know how bad the damage is but she insists it’s going to look really different if she tries to put it together again. Apologetic as she was, I told her it was no big deal, after all, it’s just a stuffed toy. I could always get her a new one. But she went on about the sentiment behind it, and that brought us to our deeper, more psychological and philosophical conversation…
If someone you knew really well (and liked very much, for that matter) suddenly changed one day, how would, or should, you react? There was one episode in Grey’s Anatomy about this, I believe it’s the fourth episode of season one. The issue was, the patient had a tumor in his brain near the part where memories and personality were stored. If they took it out via plan A (I don’t like medical terms so let’s just call it plan A), there’s a huge chance that he might not remember the past or his personality would change, but it would give him more or less ten more years of life. Plan B on the other hand assured him of his old memories and old personality, but it would only give him around five years more to live. He had a wife, and the episode pretty much built up their relationship as very sweet and sentimental, full of happy memories, inside jokes, and whatnot. So it was a pretty harsh decision to make. In the end, they decided to go with plan A, which greatly shocked the then intern protagonist Meredith Grey. She said something like (non-verbatim), “would you really be happier in those ten years without his jokes or his memories of you?” and (verbatim) “he’ll be there but he won’t be Jorge. He won’t even recognize you.” And this is what the wife replied
…if it means ten bad years for me, fine. I’ll give him those years because I will give him whatever he wants. And if he doesn’t remember me, if he doesn’t remember what we are, he’s still my Jorge. And I’ll remember for us both.
Inspiring and sweet, isn’t it? But plenty of existentialist issues and whatnot reside in this. “he’s still my Jorge“, she said. Is he? Isn’t his personality, his memory, part of his essence? And therefore, if you remove it, wouldn’t you be destroying the essence? I’ve always been passionate about learning from the past. I always say that the past, even, and especially, the bad parts of the past, shouldn’t be repressed, but nurtured and reflected upon. They’re parts that make us who we are now, after all. If you don’t look at the past, you won’t grow from it. So the past, memories, are important. Now if you take them away, that would compromise a large chunk of who you are.
I’ve had my own share of this problem, but not about memory-loss, more of the personality-change bit. One of my closest and dearest friends, whom I always admired, had a quite sudden personality change. She went from being the happy, fun, lively, caring, and thoughtful girl, to something close to a zombie. She’s coming back to life now by the way, so yay. Nothing against her, I mean, the reasons for her sudden change are understandable, but at that time, they didn’t seem understandable to me, and I hated it. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her, hoping to bring my old friend back. Of course, I was also in a stubborn, immature, and impatient state then so it really frustrated me, and worse, it made me depressed. I had lost a friend.
That’s what it felt like for me. So I can’t imagine being in this woman’s shoes. Even now that I’m more patient, it would still seem impractical and extremely difficult. Would “restoring” him be worth it if he won’t be the same anymore? Based on the experience I just shared here, it might still be. Of course, we have to (always) consider the context. My friend didn’t undergo surgery or whatever, so that personality change she had might just be a phase. Plus, as I mentioned, she is coming back. But after much reflection, I thought, if I could go back, I would’ve been more patient with her. I would have still tried to “restore” her early on. And if it didn’t work, I would have still persisted on spending time with her, treating her the same, and still hoping to bring her back. Sentiment, or if you prefer, “love”, grows deep. It grows beyond the physical, beyond memories, even beyond personality, and definitely beyond practicality. So I now understand and appreciate Kings of Restoration. Because you can replace spare parts and whatnot, but you can’t replace the love.