As humans, we expect a certain kind of continuity to existence. We believe that our experiences of life should not be isolated moments but that they should be embedded in the larger stories of our lives and of our family and of our civilization and even of the universe.
More than that, we expect ourselves to be in the middle of this vast current. We want not only that our story should be in contact with the rest of the story, but also that the knowledge, wisdom, and culture which those stories represent should be passed along by our hands to the generations to come.
When there are artifacts, photographs or diaries or the very axe my grandfather used to break the ice on the spring to fetch water for the family on a winter morning, then we can be fooled into thinking that the past still exists in a somewhat tangible form which we can pass along intact to another generation.
Know we can't do that, of course. We know that in actual reality every person has their own unique experiences. What we pass along is not the game we played but the rules by which new players can play. We can never hand over the music we heard. New players must play the tune again.
We ourselves hear something different in a familiar song sung again, in a familiar story told again; we find a new strategy in a familiar game played again. Even for ourselves, our own story never stays the same. It means new things to us each time we remember it.
Nevertheless, we want to hand over our past as nearly unchanged as we can manage. That is part of the reason why remembering people who have died is so poignant, especially those who died when they were 7 or 6 or 18 or 21. We know we can't pass along our own experience of these people to others who have never know them, but we think If only she had lived, if only he had lived a little longer, then much more of who she was to me, of what he meant in my life could have been passed along. But had they lived longer they would have become different people than they had been, and the people they would meet would be different than I was, and the experiences born of these new relationships might have been good and wonderful but they would not have ever been the experience that I have really had.
The way to play the actual reality game is not to make plays that are true to our own past experiences but to make plays that are true. The greatest experiences of our lives have been the ones that opened a window on reality for us. Our task is to open another window for another player to let them also see and hear and feel and taste and smell what really is.