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

In Quotes, Truth Often Lurks

Quotations: We find them at odd times in odd places, and are struck by a truth or insight. Or we seek them out to help us express ourselves better by using someone else’s words when failed by our own. They can be found in handy collections for easy access, or happened upon and saved—torn from a page or jotted in a notebook, or even copied and pasted in electronic form. Sometimes we commit them to memory, waiting for the right moment to utilize them.

Somehow they help us make sense of things, or offer a better way to explain something, or add something concrete to something felt, or imagined. “Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean,” wrote Theodore Dreiser. “Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.”

See what I just did? Enlisted a quote from a respected writer to help make my case, pulled from an ever-expanding collection that resides in a laptop file labeled simply, “Quotes.” Continue reading