We look at the past through the wrong end of a telescope, he thought one day; eventually the things we can see in there become simply too small to hurt us. (Character: Peter Clayborne) – Kim Stanley Robinson, The Martians Pg. 316
In Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series the expected lifespan for humans is extended by a “longevity treatment” to at least several hundred years if not thousands of years. Through this he is able to explore issues and limitations of the human brain for storing and retrieving memories. In one scene, Maya Toitovna is now around 150 years old has returned to live in a city she had previously lived in 70 or more years before.
Maya found herself trapped in a déjà vu of a déjà vu, Where was she?
It wouldn’t come back to her. It wouldn’t come. A horrible sense of tip-of-the-toungeism made her dizzy, then sick, as if she would get it out by vomiting. She sat down on the steps. On the tip of the tongue, her whole life! Her whole life! She groaned aloud, and some kids throwing pebbles at gulls stared at her.
It hadn’t really been gone; just a momentary lapse in her thinking, while her attention had wandered elsewhere. To another life.
A strong memory had its own integrity, its own dangers, just as much as a weak memory did. It was only the result of thinking that the past was more interesting than the present. Which is many ways was true. But still…
Later Maya saw her daughter Jackie, who she… lets say despised, sailboard on the open oceans of Mars:
Events would soon be washing by her, the way they did everyone else; history was a wave that moved through time slightly faster than an individual life did, so that even when people had lived only to seventy or eighty they had been behind the wave by the time they died; and how much more so now [when they lived for at least several hundred years]. No sailboard would keep you up with that wave… – Kim Stanley Robinson, Blue Mars.
A word of caution here, Maya suffered from severe depression so don’t get drawn too deeply into her neurosis.