Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Are we who we are or who we remember we are?

Very interesting documentary on Channel 4 tonight, entitled "Unknown White Male." The film-maker basically posed the question in our title and made a movie of his friend's dilemma. The friend, an Englishman, took a phone call in his New York apartment around 8.00pm, when he stated that he was probably not going to go out that night, then at 7.00 am he found himself on a subway train wondering where he was going. He then wondered where he had been. In the next few seconds, he re realised he didn't know who he was.

Getting off the train in Coney Island, he searched his backpack which contained a few inconclusive items. Finally, he turned himself into a police station. The police found that he didn't have any memory before coming to on the train. They asked some questions and went through his stuff, finding a woman's name and telephone number. However, the woman didn't recognise the description of the man and has no knowledge of how he had her telephone number.

Following an examination and tests at the local hospital, it was found that the man had some minor bumps on his head and a small tumour on his pituitary gland. This latter item was something he'd had since birth and was not the cause of his memory loss. Finding nothing physically wrong, the doctors arranged for him to be transferred to a psychiatric hospital. He languished there for a few days before being allowed to again phone the lady whose number was written down in his effects. It transpired that her daughter knew him well. He was an accomplished man who had retired in his 30s from a well-paying job to pursue a career in photography. He had, as the lady's daughter said: "A good life."

The documentary followed his efforts to reacquaint himself with his family, now living in Australia and in other parts of the world, and to revisit his friends and connections in England.

It concluded with him finding a new life with an Australian girl in the knowlege that his memory could return any time. It has never been explained how he lost his memory, but the doctors (the documentary says) feel it is 95% certain it will someday return.

"Will we still be in love?" his girlfriend asks.

His friends and family remarked upon the differences in his character since his memory loss. He was no longer as "outgoing" his father said, but his sister said there was no longer an "edge" about him, that he was more relaxed in himself.

How much then does our memory of life inform our personalities? It's a subject in which I have always been interested. Is Doug (his name), going to change if he remembers "who he is", or what will be the result of what the filmaker called "the collision of his old life and his new" when he finally gets back his memories.

Fascinating subject.


Tea & Margaritas in My Garden said...

Sounds like that was an interesting show. And a good question. I think our memories definately make up a part of our personalities and who we are. Be a terrible thing to have happen though for sure!


Jo said...

I too watched that prog Wille. I thought it was interesting. He seemed to have calmed down a lot since his memory loss. He seemed to be the leader of the gang when all the friends hung out together. I felt sorry for his friends really, it must be strange for them. He does not remember his past so does not give a hoot, it would be great to forget some things in the past eh *S*