memoriamPosted: February 10, 2009
I was speaking to a friend of mine quite some time ago, in an attempt to reconnect with someone I hadn’t spoken to for quite some time (relatively speaking.) He told me of an incredibly vivid memory of myself writing my name incorrectly on a sheet of paper, and the subsequent laughter at my own stupidity. If I were to try and remember the exact same situation, half of my recollection would be the haze of forgetfulness.
Memory is a fickle thing, is it not? I’ve found myself recalling more and more the actions of my youth, the situations of my past, the anecdotes that can get me through some days, and yet as I occasionally stand in front of a person, a refrigerator, anything, really, I find that I don’t remember my purpose for being there in the first place. There’s a presentation I watched called “Scams, Sasquatch, and the Supernatural”, in which the lecturer described the fallacy of human memory. He gave the example of a plane crash decades ago, after which reporters asked various witnesses to describe the crash. The results were disturbingly disparate; people added ridiculous details to the story, people omitted key facts, or even the crash altogether. Eyewitness accounts are apparently, notoriously unreliable. Eyewitness accounts are also directly from memory. How is it, then, that if one recalls the exploits of their childhood, they are filled with the same sense of wonder? If one recalls their own tale of love lost, their heart can still pain for the return of its former companion?
How is it, then, that specific memory can be so fickle, and yet, emotional memory can be so lucid?
If one were to ask me about the conversations I’ve had over lunch with various people, I wouldn’t be able to recall the words I spoke. More often then not, it was most likely mumbled nonsense. I would barely even recognize the words spoken to me by the other person(s). I would, however, be able to recall a few distinct facts, scattered throughout the ether. A name. An anecdote. The inflection of their voice. The manner in which they said them. The situation in which we spoke. The day. Emotion. That abstract concept, concocted in the minds of all living beings by who knows what (though them scientists gots a couple of hunches), which drives every single action that we take. I remember things because of the way I felt during the time the memory was created, if that makes much sense. If it doesn’t, let me elaborate; unless you’re a savant of some sort, I highly doubt you can recall the exact dialogue between you and a friend, acquaintance, significant other, whatever. You can, however, recall if you laughed, if you cried, if you realized something that perhaps was welling underneath your psyche for who knows how long. In turn, you’ll remember the specific details as to why you reacted in whatever way you reacted.
That’s one of the many things I find so amazing about the human mind, that however much people try to do something as stupid as defining every little aspect as to the way that it works, the way we reason, or the way we “think”, they will always realize that the mind is, and will always be driven by raw, unfiltered emotion.
It’s why one can be driven to tears at the mere sight of someone long gone, but cannot remember a single minutae that didn’t incite some sort of reaction within you. You remember the clothes they wore, flamboyant, or perhaps, more subdued, but you cannot remember a preference for stripes or the like, because, to be blunt, the mind does not care at all about the minutae. It takes in information in large chunks, the same concept that you know that “craetitvty” is read the same as the word as “creativity”. When remembering someone, all of those tiny little traits that you still remember, the sound of their voice, the conversations and time spent together. What do you remember, really? Their voice, because it always made you laugh. Your conversations, because you always looked forward to them. Happiness. Anticipation.
And that’s what makes it so much more disheartening when you’re left with only those memories.
You are crashed with the sudden realization that those same exact emotions, with the same exact people, won’t return in the same exact way. You are fraught with the realization that you cannot create any more of those precious memories, and it scares the living shit out of you. And you cry. And you are angry. And you react in a way that is perfectly fine. But then, the slow, gradual build to acceptance begins, and you realize that the precious memories that you were already given are a gift in them and of themselves, for their mere existence is enough for you to realize that it’s not about what you won’t have again, but what you already had. And you will be thankful that however that blob of flesh in our heads called the brain works, it stores memories associated with strong emotion much better than it does by circumstance.
You won’t remember the exact time you met them, or the exact date. You will remember the fact that you met. And that’s all that matters.
Today, I saw a friend of mine’s face. It was flush with a rouge caused by recently cried tears, which I knew had only recently been wiped away.
I tried to comfort her, but I couldn’t think of the words. These are the words.