Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Memory is a fragile thing. I don’t think people consider this often, but from my observation, it’s very true. As I write this, I’m watching a movie, the premise of which is that after a strange global power failure, a struggling artist wakes to a world that had never heard of the Beatles. He decides that he must bring back the catalog of music.
Early on, he’s trying to remember the words of the song Elanor Rigby (a fascinating song with no guitars or drums; just forms of violin style instruments). This is a song that I sing when I’m naked and wet (or in the shower), a song that I know extremely well, and yet, as he’s struggling to recall the lyrics with mistakes like “Elanor Rigby lives in a church darning her socks”, I lost the lyrics. I had to turn off the movie just to sing the song to re-align my brain with the correct lyrics (“Elanor Rigby picks up the rice at the church where her wedding had been”).
This struck me as so funny that I decided to write a blog about it. My life has been built around my brain, and I cannot begin to tell you how afraid I am of losing it to Alzheimer’s, stroke, or just fading away with age. Unfortunately, I believe it is starting to happen even today. But memories are not reliable anyway. It’s been demonstrated that people will remember certain events incorrectly, modified or even things that never happened. And we have a way of repressing particularly bad memories just to protect our own psyche. So how can we trust anything we’ve remembered?
A psychologist once told me that it doesn’t really matter if the memories are true or not. Even false memories have the same impact on us as true ones. I’ll never understand why it is that the painful memories from my past seem so much stronger than the happy ones. Maybe I just have so many more bad than good. Maybe I still have too much to learn from them.
Short term memory seems to be hurting for me. A friend of mine posted some memes about the various types of therapy out there, one of which is called “Dialectic Behavior Therapy”, a kind of combination of accepting ourselves and changing the behaviors we want to change. This is a particularly good friend of mine who is studying to become a therapist, so I couldn’t help but to ask her, in a comment, if she is planning on becoming a “Diabolic Behavior Therapist”. In the time that I read the meme to making the comment, I had forgotten the exact term “Behavior”. Just that quickly.
I guess everybody has had the experience of getting up to do something and forgetting what it was they had gotten up for. It seems to be happening to me more frequently these days. I’ll measure something, like a window, and in the time that I turn around to write it down I forget the number and have to measure it again.
Well, I’m not sure, though. I can’t remember if it’s that I forgot the number, or simply doubt myself to have remembered it correctly. I talk myself out of many of my own memories (was it 16 or 18?), and that self-doubt often sends me down the wrong path.
My friend who has been teaching me art once told me that drawing is a form of memory as well. When we want to draw something, even if it is immediately in front of us, we have to remember it from when we look at it and glance back down at our canvas. Maybe I should start drawing or painting to help me train my memory.
The brain, while we’re on the topic, is an odd, dark and frightening place. If you know me personally, you can probably close your eyes and literally see my face in your memory. If you want to, you can sit in a quiet place and hear my voice. But you cannot recreate, in your mind, the sense of smell. But the strange thing is that the sense of smell has been shown to be the strongest sense to trigger memories even though our memory cannot recreate it as it can sight or sound. We cannot recreate the senses of touch or taste either. I guess this is a good thing because if we could, men would probably obsess over one sense of touch in particular. As if we don’t already.