Scientists are working hard to find a way to view our memories in HD, by any means they can. You might picture the old cliche of electrodes affixed to the temples as if the subject were made ready for shock therapy. And then, a fuzzy TV picture is made crystal clear through some fiddling with the knobs. Or, you can agree to be more sophisticated in picturing how it’s done: tiny nanotravelers injected at the base of the cranium where the brain meets the spine. These nanotravelers come equipped with a full array of cameras and sensors and transmitters.
At any rate, they haven’t succeeded yet. Or if they have, they are reluctant to make their findings public.
So, for tonight, you can rest easy knowing that your memories are still yours to keep, or share only with God and anyone else whom you choose.
But, what of your memories?
Why is it that you can remember with shocking clarity an entire collection of random moments, some highly significant, others not seemingly important at all–but, you can’t remember entire decades’ worth of stuff that might be of some value to helping you survive in this world?
Why is it that you can perform exercises to help you increase your potential to remember things, and these exercises seem to only last through the duration of you doing them? What is the point in trying to remember anything at all, if you know that it’s going to be wiped when you die?
There has to be a better way to enhance the functionality of the brain.
I let my brain fall on a few random memories.
A memory of this girl who played trumpet with us in band. Her name was K H., and she was known by all to be quick to jump into bed with any number of guys. K H. had a threesome on the last jazz band trip. K H. had sex with R S. on the pool table. K H. was dating some vo-tech dude, and she’d let him prop her up on the back of his car, and wrap her legs around him and kiss him like crazy when everyone was arriving to school.
I had a brief crush on her, and I could sense the sexual energy. It troubled me. I wanted to have some of it the way the other guys were having it, but was terrified of it. She must have seen enough of something in me to invite me to go haunted housing with her and some friends down in KCMO. I was enraptured the entire time by the fact that I was getting to be a part of this event with the cool kids. At the end of it, she turned to me and said, “Wow, you haven’t said a word all night. What’s wrong with you?”
Such was the perennial thing that I would soon come to accept as being a given. But, why do I remember this just as easily as I can remember some odd dream about a poor reconstruction of the house I grew up in, and the fear in the dream that people were coming for me if I didn’t get away soon?
The truth is, I never had a crush on K H. like I had on T C. or some other girls. She never appeared in my head as my “soul mate.” T C. would appear as such all the time, and I have maybe ten very distinct memories of her actually bothering to interact with me. I never did anything with T C. outside of school functions, but she appeared in so many of my fantasies, even for years after High School.
I can remember Freshman Algebra, and for whatever reason, T had been moved during the middle of the year to sit at a desk near me. I was practically strangled with fear and excitement. One day, I got the nerve to turn to her when she came into the room and smile and say, “Hi.” She replied, “It’s ‘Hi, T.’” I chuckled uncomfortably to let her know I got her humor (though I doubt I did), and never said a word to her again the rest of the year.
As uncomfortable as those situations were, they don’t make me feel uncomfortable to remember them now, unlike some memories that can still elicit an emotional response years later.
They are more puzzling than anything. What did I do at those moments in time to take such clear snapshots of those certain events, and so many others, and why is it so hard to take the same kind of crystal clear snapshots of information I’m supposed to remember for school or work?
It’s not just the emotional content of these memories, and it’s not just the fact that both K and T happened to be people who radiated a lot of energy that almost everyone found to be attractive.
I can with great clarity remember the evening that I found my dog at Barton Springs, and the walk up the Greenbelt back to the apartment complex. I can remember running into a lady on the way back who I didn’t see for a year, and then when I finallys saw her again, she was leaving Austin to go to Chicago to get back together with her longtime boyfriend and eventually marry him and have a kid with him.
In fact, now that I sit here and try to remember other events, they all have the quality of being significant in their ability to stand out from the day-to-day, or they were recorded by me in word or photographs when they happened, or they were events that clearly had other witnesses, as if seeing that other people probably remembered it happening it must be worth remembering.
But, not all of the above are significant in the sense of being life-changing.
Life-changing events come less and less as I get older, and it’s hard to frame up much of anything as being exceptionally life-changing. I’ve changed jobs four times in the past four years. Changing jobs no longer carries with it exceptional amounts of meaning. Meeting new people doesn’t either. After putting myself into so many situations where I’d hoped to meet that epic group of friend who would be my closest companions for life, I feel these days as if I’m lucky to meet people who want to talk about anything more than just the weather and work.
Traveling is still a pretty big deal, since it costs a lot, and I don’t get to do it that often. But, I’ve traveled enough to no longer feel as if I’m going to have a great epiphany while standing in an art museum or looking at an old statue or building. The memories I’ve created from my travels of the past four years are probably not ones that look much different than anybody else’s
The point is that it’s much harder to convince myself that much of what I’m doing really is worth remembering, which probably sets me up for failure a lot of times.