Memory

Time is a fickle creature, that much we’ve all learned from this class. It’s simply impossible to ever truly get the reins on it, on how it works. I still just can’t get comfortable with that. This class has maybe even made me feel less comfortable. What makes me uncomfortable about the ever shifting experience of time is that I feel powerless. I know ultimately we are all powerless, tomorrow I could get hit by a bus, or an asteroid could hit the earth, or someone could walk up to me and give me a million dollars. We can only ever have marginal control over our destinies. But destiny is about the future. What about the past? Is it any easier to control?

I wish. But it’s not. At least, that’s how it is for me. I have a horrible memory. I don’t know why, though I have my theories. But at the end of the day theories don’t mean anything, I just have to live with my horrible memory. I always bemoan my memory. I don’t do a great job of just living with it. I always think I would love a photographic memory. When I say always I really mean it, too. I remember sitting on the rug in the third grade reading Cam Jansen books, thinking, “wouldn’t that be nice.” But is that really a memory? I can’t tell. Is it revisionism? Am I amalgamating a bunch of memories into one representation? A memory that never truly¬†happened, but did happen, just spread out over time. I could have put together a million little instances of reading on the rug and arranged them like a collage in my head in a way that would make sense and be easy to take in. I know that’s a more accurate representation of my memory. Talking about old times with friends is like arranging a puzzle. Sometimes I let them build the border then I fill the inside, and sometimes its the opposite. I like when its the former. I feel more stable like I control my brain and that it’s not the other way around.

You can implant memories in people’s heads. It’s really quite easy. I remember seeing a fact a long time ago (that probably was a pseudo fact but who knows), that said if you adamantly insist someone was a part of a memory that they actually weren’t, their brain will construct a memory and place them in it. That’s crazy! I bet if you think about it right now you can remember a time when you reminisced with a friend about a story, until it dawns on one of you that you weren’t actually there; you were reminiscing about something you didn’t experience. It’s happened to me plenty, but maybe I’m just crazy. Or maybe I have a boring enough life that every event bleeds together. Maybe my whole memory is just one big collage. Maybe one day someone will say to me, “wait a minute, I don’t think you were there,” and all my memories will fade away just like that. The curtain pulled back, they will reveal themselves to be nothing but stories. But is that all of us? Does everyone just have a head full of stories that they’ve collected and retold over time? I’m sure that’s the case. Memories can never be true unless they’re photographic. Even the most vivid memories will have omissions. Think about an intense memory that has a bookshelf somewhere in it. Can you name every book on the shelf? No? Those are all holes in the memory. So if every memory has holes like that who’s to say it doesn’t have many more holes filled in. Holes filled in with your minds inventions. Additions to the story you tell yourself. The story you call memory.