Friday, May 7, 2010

Memory Is A Tricky Thing

      Probably most people born before 1930 can remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor. Likewise most born before 1950 remember their location and activity when they heard of the assassination of president Kennedy. And I am sure that people born prior to 1990 remember where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. Why bring this up?
      In 1996 I purchased a computer program for recording a daily journal. I faithfully kept it up every day through 2004. At that point I discovered that everything dated between July 28 and October 25 of that year had disappeared from my hard drive. Gone! Zilch! Nada! And the software company no longer serviced the program! To say that I was upset would be an understatement.
      So beginning in 2005 I started keeping my daily journal on a new program – one for which technical services were available.
      I have finally got around to transferring my journal from the old program to the new one. During the process I have been reading some of the stuff I wrote during the period I was using the old one. I am amazed at how much I have forgotten – things that I am sure seemed important when I wrote them – and now I don't remember anything about them.
      For example, apparently I took a course in Creative Writing in 1998. I don't remember a thing about it, although I completed ten lessons and got a good grade. One would think I should remember something like that, but I don't.
      After Barbara retired in 2000, we made it a point to go on a "date" once a week. Usually we went to a movie and had dinner at a restaurant afterward. As I look back over the movies we saw, I remember very little about any of them. I don't even remember the titles. Apparently I enjoyed most of them, but when I try to remember anything about them I draw a complete blank.
      Equally strange is the ability of the mind to remember things that never happened. Mark Twain once said he is not surprised at how much he remembers, but he is surprised about how much he remembers that isn't true.
      Recently I read a column in which the writer mentioned that he used to go with a girl whose father gave him some good advice. He distinctly remembers standing on the porch at the family's summer place, and her father came through the door and told him whatever it was.
      Some time ago he ran into the girl after many years, and mentioned the incident to her. "But our summer place did not have a porch," she said, and showed him pictures to prove it.
      I have written about a favorite place of mine when I was about ten years old. I remember sitting under a huge tree in a meadow, and thinking about whatever ten year olds think about. Recently I went back to that meadow. There is no tree, nor is there any indication that there ever was one – no stump, rotting branches, nothing. But I still remember it.
      The mind is a funny thing.
      One thing is certain: the animal is not thinking logically. He can never think to himself, “If situation A occurs I will react according to plan B.” Logic is impossible except through the use of language. It is strictly wordplay, and is of value only insofar as its premises have some connection to the surrounding world. Regardless of the world from which one’s premises arise, it is wise to touch base with the real world before taking action based on a logical conclusion.
      The Growth of Language – The Spirit Runs Through It.

      The book and/or a free look inside is available in paperback or on Kindle at Amazon

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