Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Are They All In There?

Can you remember brushing your teeth three days ago? Are you sure you're not confusing that memory with eight days ago? Or yesterday?

My favourite question to ask a friend when walking a familiar path is "are they all in there? Every time we walked from here, across the field, to the park. Did each walk produce its own memory?" Certainly I can remember walking and carrying the basketball but my mind is generalizing. But if you were to trigger my brain, perhaps by mentioning that we were talking about Tom Hanks' Academy Awards, my mind would burst forth with the relevant walk. I might remember the exact words of the conversation. The sensation of the weather on my skin. The hand I used to hold the basketball.

Looking into my three-month-old niece's eyes today I remembered reading that we don't have memory until we have language. Nothing will trigger the moment that I spent touching her tiny cold hand. Even though it may be having a momentous impact on her personality, I am the only one with the potential to remember.

Of all the things I lost in the Great Deleting the resource I miss the most is a small text file I kept on my desktop. At odd intervals (sometimes not for months) I would log my day in minute detail. Everything I could remember about the day. Sometimes specific dialogue, what I had for breakfast, how much time I spent reading a particular book. It was a continual sense of wonder to open that file, look into my past and discover how much my mind could be triggered. Now that they're gone, I wonder if the circumstances will ever arise to trigger those insignificant memories. Will I lose them or will they lie dormant? (Is that the same thing? Is forgetting the same as destorying? Is amnesia death?)

Are they all in there?

Sometime I am so energized by the realization that I will die that I feel like I'm almost in reach of something. But it's too confusing to grab hold.


lfar said...

I get really sad thinking about the Great Delete.

Each midterm and final exam period I usually just listen to a single album on repeat (because if I need to focus on what I'm studying, not on what I should listen to next.) This usually means about 20-30 plays per song. Because I'm then sick of it, I don't listen to that album for a few months... and then when I do hear it again I am brought back not only with all of my senses (I remember the taste of the dried mangoes I bought and ate in bulk, the smell of my then roommate's hair spray, the tremendous heat that accompanies a school term in the summer) but also my brain totally recalls everything it learned. Five minutes prior I would not have been able to solve a problem with Bernouilli's equation but now that Vampire Weekend is playing BRING IT ON.

In first year I started keeping an ongoing play list for each 4 month school term. Like a "most listened to this term" because as those songs eventually left my regular list of things in my head, it was nice to be able to go click "first year- part 1" and be like "haha this song, I remember who I had a crush on when I was into this song. Good times!" Except then my itunes library erased last January. I had all the files but none of the play lists of play count data or skip count data. I'd say "the worst" except your great delete was far worse. I've started new play lists since- but I miss having memory triggers for my first 3 years of university. I feel your pain.

Plorry Stabworth said...

Ha, the "captcha" phrase I have to type to verify that I'm a human is: hootsms.
Pronounced: Hoots-ems. Sounds like a new children's toy. Like a Furby, but more owl-like. Remember Furby's? My point is that your niece won't. Furbish is not really a language at all - not even a pidgin. So no one will ever remember them. Especially not your niece, who hadn't learned Furbish yet when Furby's were around.
Well, now I'm on to type "hootsms"

Your Ill-fitting Overcoat said...

My father drove me to school every day in sixth grade. He drove me in his beat-up blue Pontiac and we'd listen to oldies or the easy listening station. Sometimes we would talk, but usually not. One morning, I sat in the passenger seat, my arm resting on the window sill, just as I did every morning before that and every morning after. There was nothing special about the moment. I wasn't particularly happy or particularly sad. But I thought to myself, "I'm going to remember this moment forever."

And so far, I have.