Memory is a Tricky Tease

Time moves in one direction, memory in another -- William Gibson

Time moves in one direction, memory in another — William Gibson

We all know memory is a tricky thing, sometimes teasing, sometimes torturing as we grasp at the past, often during attempts to deal with the present and plan for the future. As we learn more and more about the human brain and its miraculous functions, we also come to understand that memories are not exact, finite things. There is no portion of the human brain that functions as a “filing cabinet” from which memories are extracted whole and presented for retrospection. Instead, a “memory” is formed through input from various sections of the brain, with data collected and assimilated into a reconstruction of something or someone past. This means a “memory” is not an exact thing, but a re-creation.

I was considering this recently after reading a column by a friend with whom I attended school from our first day through high school. His well-crafted piece, featured in the hometown newspaper, was his recollection of beginning school with that fearful walk into the first grade classroom (no kindergarten in those days in our little town). Having shared that experience – we were in the same class – it was interesting to compare my memories, admittedly dim, with his, and allow his to cause me to examine things forgotten.

One thing I agreed with was the slanted perception of that time and place and situation. For me, it reinforces the notion that memories are recreations, perceptions fed through Continue reading


Doing the Right Thing? What a Concept

Amid all the bizarre antics attached to the recent passage of the healthcare bill, one that was most intriguing was the numerous members of Congress who pounded their fists on their chests as they proclaimed that voting for the bill was “the right thing to do.” Which raises the question, as opposed to what? The wrong thing to do?

Come to think of it, the “wrong thing” is what too often passes for, and is excused as, politics in that circle of hell known as Washington, DC. It seems to have been long forgotten that one is elected to Congress to represent the will of the people, to understand the needs and desires of constituents, and vote in a way that reflects this duty. Instead, we’re now stuck with professional politicians whose first and foremost consideration when they get out of bed each day is making certain they are re-elected (unless, of course, the first consideration is covering up who they’re in bed with). Continue reading

Where did we go wrong?

At one point in Eliot’s Tale, Eliot and his old friend Mike contemplate over a cold beer  just exactly what happened to the hippies, yippies and various counterculture movements that had taken to the streets to “change the world.” As Mike says, “What the hell happened to the belief that there could be a better way to live? I mean, shit, I sit here sometimes and think I’m no better than my old man when it comes to taking responsibility for the world…Or was the big, bad system really that big and bad? Just swallowed us up, spit us back out, laughed at us thinking we had some magic power.”

It raises a good question for those of us who were there then and now have to wonder what indeed did happen to the righteous indignation and genuine anger that helped stop a war, implement civil rights, topple a crooked administration, etc. We found ourselves now with two wars–one never justified–a staggering economy pushed to the brink by obscene profiteering, a natural environment in deep trouble, and, perhaps most frightening, a political system nearly unable to function. Yet, where is the outrage and the protest? Or have we become so comfortable, so complacent that it just doesn’t seem worth the effort to rock the boat?

As a friend of mine said recently, with a certain amount of regret and resignation in his voice, it’s being proved that the American people are getting the government they deserve. His comment came hard upon the astounding decision by the Supreme Court that determined that corporations have the same free speech rights as individual citizens. It was a stunning legal turnaround that puts the entire political process in play, with corporations and wealthy individuals no longer limited in the monies they can devote to controlling the system for their own benefit. But at its most fundamental level, this decision demonstrates that even the Supreme Court, which is charged with upholding the rule of law, has now become a political body driven not by respect for the law but ideology. The founding fathers created the court to hold check over the other two bodies of government, to make certain that the rights of the country’s citizens were protected. Instead, this court now proves itself as beholden to special interests as any congressman who consorts with lobbyists and takes their money. Continue reading