Of course, it's a necessary skill that keeps us from burning our fingers on a hot stove after the first time; it assists us to get from here to there a second and third time; or to know how to hold the darkness at bay or to heat the house on a chilly day. Without memory perhaps humans would have become extinct eons ago having no protective fur or fins or claws and needing many years of relying on parents for survival. Memory holds accumulated experience and brings it forth at just the necessary moment.
Memory beyond this survival aspect seems to act according to its own rules. At times memory can be so strong and substantial that it seems as if we are actually living again the time and place and event. Memory can stir in us feelings of love and joy, can bring back long forgotten stories, can wrap us in a sweetness that is all the better in the remembering. At other times, bitterness and rage rekindled can once again burn hot to flood our senses with destructive doom promising thoughts. In an instant we can feel old shame and guilt. We can regret deeds done or words never to be taken back. We can long for the words we might have said. We can recreate ourselves and others as monsters or saviors or innocents.
What then is the usefulness of memory? Many religious, spiritual, and philosophical traditions agree that we have but two basic emotions: love and fear. From these two spring all the nuances, the subtleties, the extremes of all other feelings. And from basic love and fear emerge behaviors, which then merge into our collections of memories. But what is the use of all of this emergence and merging again? Perhaps memory is our day of salvation, our first day of creation. If we are brave enough and willing enough to allow memory to be, just be, and if we are kind enough to welcome and embrace it, we become our own alchemist. From the raw materials that we resurrect and bring into the light of the present, we may create the gold, the imperishable, redeemed for ourselves and for our descendants.