Life – a collection of discrete events?

Some where I read the following quote, but not sure, when or where? It goes something like this:

Thoughts are discrete, like the scenes in a movie. When we see the movie, we get the impression, the image of a continuous flow, a chain of events all connected to each other. Yet, they are produced as individual scenes; each with many takes and re-takes, compiled and edited, before the movie is released. Our thoughts are like the scenes or the takes and re-takes in a movie setting. Over the course of time – what we call as life – we come to believe that all of these scenes are part of a continuum. Any one watching the movie can readily relate to the scenes, the actors, the possible take and re-take of the many shots. It is possible to look at our life like that as well”.

 The above needs some reflection and analysis. Even though there are many takes and re-takes of a given scene, the editor uses only one of them or some segments of each in the final edit. Even though we have many experiences in life, we do indeed select a few and de-select the rest to weave the movie or our life story. Here is a simple example: Think of any one you have known for over twenty or thirty years. That is a long time! There would have been many events that would have occurred in this long span of time. Some events would even have repeated many times, such as sitting down together for dinner each evening with a family member or saying hello each morning at work place to a colleague of long time. Yet, when we remember this person, it would be for a collection of few moments. Each of these moments remembered will be for something either extremely positive or extremely negative. All the rest are discarded as the cut tapes that have fallen in the trash bin near the editor’s desk! Very few, if any, remember the entire series of events or experiences and thus develop a composite of all our experiences. If we do, may be we will find that all our life stories are nearly identical!

How do we select the shots among the many, to create our life story? Much similar to the movie editor, we have a story line in our mind. Some times the story line evolves with time. At other times they are cast well ahead in the early part of our life. Everything that fits this story line we keep and the rest we tend to edit them out. In due course such story line, its development and its editing becomes identified with me as an “individual” or my “personality”. If we recognize the process of such development of the story line, then all differences among each other as individuals disappear. We find ourselves as part of the same species – the human beings – with the same process of building our life stories. We begin to see ourselves as part and parcel of the larger, the universe, thus co-existing with everything known to us as well as the unknown.

We can be engaged in life and shed tears or have a healthy laughter just as we do, when we watch the movie. But, as soon as we leave the theater, the movie and its story line are distinct and separate from us. To look at life in a dispassionate manner, just like watching a movie, we need the ability to recognize the picture in each frame. Then we can enjoy life, just as we can enjoy the movie. The movie viewing experience can make us one with the story line in the movie. But, we see the separation as soon as we step out of the movie theater. Such ability to observe our own life is part of Self-Realization.

Every scene or footage in each take and re-take in our life is what we call as “experience”. Our thoughts are the record and recollection of our experiences. Between each thought – the period devoid of any experience – there is the silence. Like the movie film, we can look for our experience as the pictures in each frame, collection of pictures in each footage or each reel and ultimately in the final film. As an analogy with Digital Rewind, we also have our mind replay a few scenes frequently. But, just like any recorded medium our mind can only re-wind and re-play only that which has been already recorded (i.e) our experience. But, it can not create the scene, which is not recorded or yet to be filmed!

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7 Responses to Life – a collection of discrete events?

  1. Sipractce says:

    I am amazed with your thoughtful and timely blogs.

    Simple, yet profound analysis. Thank you for inspiring all of us.
    Best Regards,
    Pravin Sitaram

    This one is interesting because it is a snap shot of life continuum that Vedantha preaches. We are looking present life form (Yathartham for the given souls) and if we believe in our Vedic philosophy this soul continues its journey through various continuums in each of its birth but never remembers nor attempt to remember its previous ones. However, there is a lingering effect and by a strange, unknown, superior entity’s (whatever you want to call it) disposition get another opportunity to play the life game by remembering only certain events. It will be interesting to analyze (which I think is already done by our sages) whole continuum from time immemorial including the entire sentinel and insentient objects of this universe and then look at an individual self as a miniscule subset.


  2. Kumar says:

    A thought-provoking and striking analogy for seeing our life in perspective! Thanks for the detailed comparison.

    One question prompted by the last line (“But, it (our mind) can not create the scene, which is not recorded or yet to be filmed!”): Does’nt the mind create new scenes from the raw material of experiences and memories when we are dreaming?


  3. Jay says:

    About a month ago, the popular News Show, 60 Minutes, did a story on 5 individuals across the country who were identified to have phenomneal memory. These people are quite normal in most ways except for their incredible memory for dates and events; in fact one othem was an actress who used to be on the eighties sitcom, Taxi. Their memory is more striking than mere photographic memory. When prompted with a date, for example, 19th October 1987, they would not only remember the major event of the day (Stock Market Crash), but also what their own personal day was like- such as the clothes they wore and who they had lunch with and what they ate etc. In many cases, the facts were checked and found to be true. Apparently, their brains are wired differently and seem to be better organized like a filing cabinet ! Most of them ascribed their instant recall of long ago events to their ability to look back at that day as if opening a diary or a book or a file. Literally, their brain shows them a flash back of that particular day in an instant.
    My memory is decent but nowhere as good as it was when I was younger. I conveniently blame this on our information age and our brains being constantly bombarded with all kinds of information whether it is relevant to our own life or not. Although I admire these people with phenomenal memories for life’s events, I am thankful for being able to forget unpleasant or painful events to function normally and carry on with our lives. If our life was a movie, then clearly the brain is the editor who decides which scenes stay in the final cut.


  4. sipractce says:

    Answer to Kumar’s question:
    First a confession: This is just an opinion. I do not feel confident to claim it as an absolute or trtuh. But, here is my logic:
    You are correct. The mind indeed projects from the raw materials of experiences and memories. We call it as Dream, imagination, conception, Creative thinking,etc.
    But, all of these are projections of what we already know (i.e) our experiences.
    We see a bird flying and we dream of an airplane
    We see a bird’s nest and we dream of a house
    We see the cooling effect of the breeze and we dream of a fan, etc.
    We dive deep and see the many fishes swimming and we dream of a submarine.
    I think this is why Socrates states: “We never invent anything new. We always discover and re-discover what is already known and exists!”

    Addressing Jay’s comment:
    Mind may well be the editor of our life story from a collection of events, called “experiences”. Mind may be the producer, financier, actor, director, …..
    One can define what the “brain” is. Can any one define what the “mind” is? Also, who makes the “mind” work as it does? — Consciousness?
    These are just rhetorical questions calling for reflection.


  5. chitra says:

    Life starts off as discrete events, just random acts and we try to piece them together like a jigsaw puzzle. We may not have a vision or know where we are headed or what the end product will be like. But half way through the journey or process it seems to form a pattern. Then I see my story line! I look back and notice how the pieces fit. Initially they simply did not make sense. Some were easy to fit in, others difficult, some gave me a feeling of achievement others frustrating and with it came the emotions attached with it. Remember those clearly!.
    Was it really me or was it a mysterious hand directing me all along, guiding every move. Who is the puzzle maker?
    Remember, the puzzle is not complete but maybe now I can stand back and actually take an objective view, just work at it picking one piece at a time, not being concerned about the end product.
    Looked around and noticed that other people me are engaged in the same activity, picking from the same box. Their picture looks very familiar.
    Realization now dawns!! My choice will affect theirs——–


  6. chitra says:

    Thank you for the wonderful insight into our daily seemingly mundane happenings! and your ability to write so eloquently! Definitely food for thought!


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