One of my favorite movies of all time is Blade Runner. Set in a dystopian cyberpunk future where law enforcement hunts down robots that are indistinguishable from humans, I could discuss the film all day. One scene blew my teenage mind when I saw it and still resonates in me today. At the film’s climax, a character soliloquizes mortality as follows:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser gate. All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain… Time to die.”
Mind blowing! The full speech, which can be viewed here.
I recently saw Blade Runner again and it led me to reflect on why I write nonfiction stories. I write for many reasons, from a desire to improve my communication skills to the opportunity writing provides to brighten someone’s day through entertaining stories. The primary reason I choose to write nonfiction however, is to give some sort of permanence to the significant points of my life, points that would otherwise disappear after I die. Take a moment to reflect on all of the high points, extraordinary moments, and uncommon experiences that you have had throughout your life. Now imagine these events and any tangible memory of them disappearing.
Some argue that existence is transient and that given our short life-spans, we need to live in the moment and ignore the fleeting nature of existence. I don’t buy that. I don’t buy that for a second. If the purpose of life is simply to end, that gets into dangerously nihilistic territory. My approach is to accept the time constraints of life and strive to maximize it, living each moment to the fullest. Once these moments are completed, we should not be satisfied to simply let them disappear like “tears in rain”. We must strive to repackage and sharpen these experiences into stories to for the benefit of others.
I firmly hold to the concept that we exist to influence and impact the lives of others. We are social creatures and to exist in a bubble and leave the world without any sort of impact is equal parts terrifying and wasteful. With storytelling and writing however, we are able to emotionally impact and resonate in the lives of others, giving purpose to our own experiences in the process.
The importance of memory first occurred to me a few years ago as I was helping my grandmother move into a new house. I love my grandmother and she is a woman that has led a diverse and rich life centered on kindness towards others. She is also a role-model for good health, walking miles a day despite being in here nineties. At one point during the cleaning project, I came across an ornate letter opener. It was shaped like a sword, with gold gilding around the handle and a small red stone with the word “Spain” written on it. Sensing a story behind it, I asked my grandmother where she got this. Her reply was that it was beautiful and that she couldn’t remember where it was from. She then offered the ornate letter opener to me and I gladly accepted, a welcome improvement over the car keys I was using to open my mail at the time.
To this day, I still have that letter opener. Given the amount of spam mail I get, it serves as a constant reminder to write down the significant moments in life, to ponder how best to share them with others and to deliver them with absolute conviction, knowing the only alternative is to let them disappear, like tears in rain.