Charlie's Blog: Voluntary Amnesia


Voluntary Amnesia

As a dog that returneth to his vomit, so is the fool that repeateth his folly.

There's this guy who will remain nameless who made a big splash a decade ago in the small and eccentric world of ultradistance trail running. With his long hair and beard, he looked like Jesus on the trail. He also lived like Jesus sleeping on floors, under beds, and in closets while in college. He upgraded to sleeping in the back of a Chevy S-10 pickup with a camper shell and spent his days logging 200 mile weeks in the Rocky Mountains which is considered insanity and risking needless injury. But the thing that really set this guy apart was his love of minimalist footwear. He would take a knife to his shoes to whittle the soles down to a more neutral and minimal profile. He advocated being light on gear and all that. Naturally, this nutty guy became a hero of mine for a couple of years until he got injured. That's when he went in a new direction.

He ditched his minimalist shoes and went back to big soled shoes. He forgot all the things he preached. His injuries never went away, so he embraced cross training becoming a skier, rock climber, and cyclist with all of the gear those sports require. Every time he went back to trail running, his injuries would plague him. He has been a disappointment despite early success in his original sport.

The thing that gets to me about this guy is he was doing it right in those earlier days. If I could give him advice, I would tell him to listen to his earlier self because that guy was doing it right. Don't listen to me. Listen to YOU.

I have a name for this phenomenon. I call it "voluntary amnesia." It's where you are doing it right, and you know you are doing it right. Then, for no good reason whatsoever, you forsake what you know is right. You can witness this sort of thing every time some vegan abandons the plant based way to become a meathead again and starts preaching about the "dangers" of veganism. These people know better.

For me, the biggest disappointment was when Samuel L. Jackson went back to eating meat. That cat had a blood clot in his leg. He was lucky he didn't stroke out and die. Sam went vegan and hit the reset button on his health. He lost weight and looked great. Then, he apsotasized hitting In-n-Out as he turned his back on the thing that saved his life. How can you forget these things?

Voluntary amnesia is not the same as simply falling off the wagon. People slip and fall. I get it. What I don't understand is the lobotomy these people do to their memory banks to erase the wisdom of their earlier selves. Once you get it right, why would you forget it?

Another example is former Fed chief Alan Greenspan. This guy was an Ayn Rand disciple and a gold bug. He believed in hard money. Yet, when he was Fed chairman, he became just another Keynesian forgetting all that he knew. Then, when he left the Fed, he became a gold bug again. That is some convenient amnesia there.

I applaud anyone who has the courage and the self-awareness to admit that he has it wrong. I had it wrong when I was an atheist. But it takes a special kind of stupid to be right, to know you are right, and elect to go back to stupid.

I make mistakes in life, but I do try not to repeat mistakes. Once I know something is the wrong way, I don't keep doing it. Likewise, once I know something is right, I tend to stay with it. It takes a lot for me to move from my stubbornness on a thing.

The issue where people employ voluntary amnesia is in the area of religion. Culturally, successive generations forget the lessons and the examples of their elders who feared God and read the Bible. Today's madness began in the sixties when Boomers forgot what their parents taught and decided to experiment with alternative lifestyles of decadence and immorality. The same thing also happens in the political and economic arenas as we have a new generation of idiots looking to Karl Marx for the answers. It really blows the mind.

For me, it all comes back to God. We forget God. God never went away. We are the ones that go away. We let God slip down the memory hole as we return to our folly. This is why we need the Bible, religious books, the calendar, and traditions. They refresh our memories on a regular basis.

There are precious few new answers in life. This is why people turn to science and technology. They think the people that give us new toys can also give us new answers to the most important questions in life. Where did we come from? Where are we going? Why are we here? How can I be happy? Technology has answered none of these questions for us.

The old answers to these questions remain the right answers. Go with God. God has the answers. Christianity is the way. Jesus is Lord. Stay true to these things. If you slip, return to them immediately. As we see our culture and society descend into madness, we shouldn't wonder where we went wrong. We already know. We have chosen to forget.

On a personal level, I can confess to voluntary amnesia. I never remember God's blessings. I always remember His beatings. God has blessed me tremendously and forgiven much in my regard. My descent into atheism was a correction to the doublemindedness of my youth, and it freed me from the prison of heresy. But I hung up the phone on God way back then. I know better now. I must always keep the line open and remember how bad my life was as an atheist. It was an empty and hollow existence.

When times of trial come, the temptation is to slip into voluntary amnesia. You want to forget. You want to return to the vomit of past errors like a sick dog. But I love these words from Proverbs:
My son, forget not my law, and let thy heart keep my commandments.
For they shall add to thee length of days, and years of life and peace.
Let not mercy and truth leave thee, put them about thy neck, and write them in the tables of thy heart:
And thou shalt find grace and good understanding before God and men.
Have confidence in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not upon thy own prudence.
In all thy ways think on him, and he will direct thy steps.
Be not wise in thy own conceit: fear God, and depart from evil:
For it shall be health to thy navel, and moistening to thy bones. 
These words speak to me because they expose a pride in all of us. This is the pride of thinking we know better than God. We don't. The embarrassment of all my past failures should have taught me this, but it hasn't. I don't know what I am doing. But God always knows what He is doing. Lean not upon your own prudence. Those are very wise words. I just hope I can remember them when I need them.