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We always live near Lethe river and keep drinking its water

One way to know how much we have forgotten about the past is to see how many monuments were erected to remember important events for those was who lived at that time. For example, with the exception of small monuments in Colorado and Australia, practically nothing was built to remember the pandemic that struck the world after 1918.

In fact, it is said that despite the millions of deaths worldwide from the so-called "Spanish flu" around 1925, the case had been practically forgotten and that forgetfulness seems to have been one of the reasons why the world, when facing a new plague (another on a millennial list), appears to be poorly prepared.

But the problem is not just forgetting an important historical fact. That in itself is already risky because history, like life, has its many twists and, therefore, forgetting the past is perpetuating and repeating it.

Our forgetfulness goes beyond dates, politicians, and statistics. It is such a deep forgetfulness that it becomes unrecognizable: we have forgotten ourselves. Even worse, we forgot that we have forgotten.

Therefore, not only do we not erect monuments to remember the past, but we also do not erect monuments (write books, create art) to communicate with our own future. Since we already forgot being ourselves, we also do not know what we can become, and we do not even try to communicate with our future self.

Plato, in his typical way, described it with a myth at the end of The Republic. And although much is said these days about the famous myth of the Cave (also in The Republic), the Myth of Er is more interesting to me, both for the story itself and for its immense philosophical, theological, psychological, and literary impact for the next 2400 years.

Those interested can read the Myth of Er in book 10 of The Republic or can easily find it online. In his most basic element, Er dies in battle and then comes back to life and tells the story of what he saw "on the other side." And what Er tells us is that each one of us, before being born, drinks the water of the Lethe river, the river of Oblivion (Forgetfulness).

In other words, we are born having forgotten who we are and not knowing that we have forgotten. That is why, during life, we continue to drink from the river of Oblivion over and over again (we call it amusement, education, religion, or whatever other name), deepening our existential oblivion to the point of no return.

Then, every once in a while, something happens that shakes us and shakes the very structure of our world, our culture and our society. That “something” (a pandemic, for example), by revealing our vulnerability and fragility, our nothingness, can potentially make us think that we are forgetting something and lead us to recover what has been forgotten.

In fact, for the Greeks, learning was remembering. And the opposite of Lethe is aletheia, that is, truth.

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