Mystery of what we remember starts here… I tried, but I can’t remember along what road I walked to that odd place in gritty downtown Binghamton. Under what conditions I climbed the stairs or why I came at all. To this apartment I hadn’t seen before and never would again.
But afloat in this small, peculiar eddy, I relaxed. I remember that, but without any context.
By David Stone
My friend and his girl paused briefly when I entered the bedroom. It’s frustrating that the names are gone.
My friend raised his upper half in what looked like a yoga position for strengthening the lower back and joked. And, her legs spread beneath him, his girlfriend laughed too.
Head scene for seventeen… Why was I so cool?
I left them and went out and talked to the roommate in the next room.
Mystery of One Memory Plucked Out of a Thousand Others
This memory floats alone, like it rolled out in an alternate reality, like bobbers we used when fishing as kids, connected to the line but only slightly, waiting for a tug.
I can’t really connect it with anything beyond or outside that third floor apartment on, I think, Water Street.
And the chilly emptiness of the sidewalks along the Chenango River. Late winter or early spring. Seasons run together, and I opened the building door and climbed upstairs.
Names and how I got there and how this guy was a friend escape me. But we hung out together, for a while, accomplices without a crime, outsiders. An honor among thieves kind of connection.
I can’t hook this memory up with anything else, can’t find that thread.
More confusing, I don’t how or why I kept this one memory plucked out of a million others.
Mystery of What We Remember: Is It Magic?
Sacks and the Riddles Inside Our Skulls
Oliver Sacks wrote about a man who remembers everything, total recall. That burden might drive even a really nice person nuts, just from the weight.
What I took from the story, though, is that all of us have access to everything, but we inherit and develop filters that keep certain things — trivia, false impressions, sensory errors, clownish social miscues, pain and regret — out as we edge away from childhood. Sacks’s patient somehow didn’t get his filters.
There was nothing else exceptional about him. It’s not like he had a head the size of a basketball, extra space for highlight reels, garbage and cruder events leading up to the terminus of Western Civilization. Nothing like that.
The mystery of what we remember… other riddles
And while we’re at it, what about savants who can’t tie their own shoes but can whip up advanced mathematics on request?
In what compartment next to truncated tracks for learning anything useful do they park that memory? How does it link up?
Is there a hidden genius having a coffee and donut inside their skulls, waiting to be asked?
And the ones who play back Mozart sonatas after a single hearing but don’t know what a note is or even a sheet of music?
Can savants tickle the keys just as well when it’s Haydn, Bach’s Masses or Phillip Glass?
What within us has tendrils of perfection only a few get to use? Or, is it more selective?
Are savants spritzed with genius, missing so much else?
Questions unanswered in the mystery of what we remember…
Random Mass Assembled
No drama fused into my one and only late night among these lost friends made it memorable.
If I meditate on it, a lesson comes through. Plain and simple happiness increasingly hidden, maybe inaccessible, behind foundations of make-believe, elevated as our hearts empty out.
The dreary isolation surrounding this episode swept off into the trash bin of who needs it memory.
If you don’t learn to embed your memories with some order-inducing color, your story goes ragged and random. You throw a lot of things away you should have kept.
It’s all still in the basket, but you can’t get to it and it can’t get to you.
Read enough Sacks and you realize that an injury, a blow to the head, can be like tipping the basket over and all the discarded junk tumbles back onto the prairie of who you are, enough to make who you were seem like some ratty remnant with most of its threads frayed
Life Afloat in Time
A random universe of scenes comes up like bubbles adrift in a pool of extremely heavy water:
Hiding behind a rickety garage in the middle of a winter night, the cold, quiet wind whispering against the rotting wood, watching Ginny’s inebriated parents walk the worn-down path to a house full of children they made but couldn’t afford, me isolated in the shadows, and a year later, when she didn’t love me anymore, standing in knee-deep snow, trying to see her through curtained windows, having hiked all the way out there in the biting cold, knowing I’d never touch her again but for some crazy reason needing a physical fracture….
Walking toward the crown of city streets between Herald Square and the shows on Broadway, Christmas lights brightening the buildings at and above street level, and me jubilant over a check for $137,000 in my pocket…Stranded in the night at the base of Pike’s Peak, tattered suitcase to sit on and Gene Pitney singing It Hurts To Be In Love from somewhere out in the irregular field of small, incandescent lights, really lost, waiting, wondering…
Kissing Jodi on a summer night in the pouring rain at the intersection of Delaware and Utica when we were young and first in love…Watching Kenny fall wildly backward from the batter’s box while my fastball, aimed straight at his head, buzzed by…
From Fusible Links
Mystery of what we remember flows
Dozens keep coming, for some reason, finding the screen ahead of a billion others.
The strangest thing, some element puts me right back there, in the scene again.
Cast memories detach, like file cabinets of illusion, but they aren’t broken off. Somewhere, somehow, they are still real.
Mysterious Captain of Jill Bolte Taylor’s Ship
They come up whole, like the big chunks, for no reason, in an overstocked minestrone with a dense, invisible broth.
Is there purpose? Or is this like a random, transcendental meteor shower, blowing through the ether, creating accidents?
Uncertainty convinces me we are barely on the cuff of awareness, fooling around in an estimated world that will someday be an embarrassment to our descendants.
A simple solution is to let most of it fall off in the vapor trail. That’s what I think, if not what I do.
You’re never going to understand anything more than the general essence, anyway, and why should you? Life isn’t a story.
A story is a clever mechanical device we explain to ourselves and others to mediate an architecture of reality that will be pulverized if found naked. It’s a game, a built-in habit, one sticking us all together on this eternal grid.
We all have it, even Oliver Sacks’s guy who never forgets anything. His story is the same, just with all the detritus still stuck in it.
Which is why books like Finnegan’s Wake and abstract art get to me.
The stranger inside Jill Bolte Taylor’s head…
The mission to represent something real marches on.
It’s why the rhythms of Cummings’ most angular poetry taught me so much. Poetry, Wallace Stevens tuned and tuned and tuned and tuned, is only about those beautiful spikes.
The less time spent on foundations, the better. Let it all hang out.
My friend Rich used to refer to people “opening their kimonos,” but it’s also like the scene in Scrooged where the ghost’s robe parts to expose hell’s Bosch-like inferno in the gut.
That central observation station, the traveler at the wheel, stays, observing, conducting, appreciating, held in a greater coherence than the infinite medley playing.
In Jill Bolte Taylor’s My Stroke of Genius, she describes in startling detail how she watched her own brain go to mush.
Lots to learn when a brain scientist tells her story from the inside, but what was dumbfounding, what was unforgettable, she stood up at the TED Conference, telling her story at all.
What coherent person was inside, undamaged, taking the whole thing in, keeping the record? Her brain fried and, then, hung around, startling us with anecdotes?
Who was that?
Do we all get one?
Is it me or we?
We must, I figure, all have one of whatever irreducible thing it is.
How could we all walk around figuratively headless?
David Stone wrote The Mystery of What We remember..
Categories: Assorted Ideas