14 June 2011

do you remember when we first met? i sure do.

i listened to this episode of radiolab at work yesterday called "memory and forgetting."  it had some crazy stories about a guy whose memory only lasts seven seconds and experiments on rats that proved you can take memories away through certain drugs and also implant fake memories of things that never happened into people's minds and make them believe they actually did happen.

at one point in the show there was a discussion concerning our ability preserve memories forever.  and the conclusion was that we can't.  it was decided that when we remember things, we're actually re-creating those memories, and each time we think of them, we're rebuilding and changing them.  the memories are always changing, and the more we remember or think of certain things that have happened to us, the less accurate they become with time.

an example that they discussed on radiolab was one involving two people kissing each other for the first time.  in one scenario, those two people each remember that kiss almost on a daily basis for thirty years.  in another scenario, they don't think about that kiss, leave each other, but happen upon one another thirty years later and all of a sudden remember that kiss for the first time since it happened.  the recollection in scenario two is supposed to be more accurate and true to real life than in the first scenario, even though it was remembered once, as opposed to being remembered five thousand times.

i guess this was a less-than-thrilling thing to hear because it's been bothering me ever since i heard it.  i don't like the idea that every time i think about something, i'm changing or exaggerating it in accordance with whatever emotion i associate with that memory.  i want to be sure that that one concert i went to that one time really was as amazing as i remember it.  i want to think that all of those trips to the dentist really were as horrifying and terrible as i remember them.  i want to always remember this feeling now; that i'm really happy and really lucky - to get care packages in the mail from my family, to have friends who trust me and ones whom i trust, to live in a safe place that isn't burning or flooding or in the middle of a war zone, to be able to obtain a college education and to do it without having to worry about debt.

it is in light of depressing news like this that i remember why i love pictures and stories so much.  i love that they have the ability to stop time and preserve important moments, images, and feelings.

so dang it, write in your journal, people.  keep a pen near you all the time (paper is optional; i don't like writing on my hand but i'll do it if i'm desperate).  it would be the saddest thing one day to think about the first time you kissed someone important, or the first time you held your first baby, or the time you got lost and met a homeless man with an accordion and danced on the streets with him for a night only to realize that your memory of that event isn't pure, that it's not what really happened.

we can't rewind, we're locked in time

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