Memory

About a millisecond ago, maybe less, it struck me how weird a thing memory is. For no reason, today, I’ve had millions of snapshot memories of thousands of things. (A festival I went to, my friend wrapping her sarong round her head like a turban; several parties I’ve been to; wandering around my first sixth-form college; encountering another friend of mine blind-drunk in the town-centre after a break-up; evening after evening in two of my favourite pubs. And thousands more. Things that happened last night, or the night before, my first ever walk down to lectures). Who knows what triggered those thoughts. I find that amazing, that my brain works so fast and so efficiently that not only can I feed myself and stay warm and alive, but I can also have loads of unnecessary thoughts and experiences which are what make this life worth living. (There goes another one: my first evening in New Zealand and my sister falling asleep almost directly into her plate! An evening spent listening to gypsy jazz in the village hall! The Hi-Lights Barn Dance! Another ceilidh in another town, sometime, some town, I don’t know when. Loch Lomond. My old primary school, and the one that came after that, and my nursery, my old house…).

Why, how does my brain do this? How, when I’m thinking about what I’m going to buy in the supermarket tomorrow and whether J has finished cooking yet, and what assignments do I need to do now and what I’m going to do about my stolen bike – all these things at once – how do we still find time to flick through all these memories? (A kiss under the stars, a kiss in the rain, sitting in a car at night singing Muse loudly and badly, crashing through Les Miserables with several other drunken sopranos,Β sitting round a fire in the darkest part of the night…. They tumble on.)

Obviously now I’m thinking about memories in general so of course they’re coming rushing at me double quick, but even when I’m not thinking like this, memory is always there. Is that all we are? Memory? And can there be anything else to us, really?

And why is it that when you have one horrible jerking moment when one awful thing comes back to grab you by the throat, why can you not let go of that feeling? Why do all the other terrible memories come rushing back all of a sudden? Things I can barely say out loud, things I wish I hadn’t done, things I wish other people hadn’t done?

This may sound like a rhetorical kind of an entry, there to be creative and decorative, but really, I want to know the science behind all of this. If it is known, though, it’ll be years before I can understand these things: at the moment we’re doing the working of neurons at the most basic level and there’s so much to understand before I can even ask those kinds of questions. Today in our tutorial we were looking at Alzheimer’s, among other things. I am so excited about the things I am learning now, the things they’ll allow me to learn in turn.

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2 Comments

Filed under Introspection

2 responses to “Memory

  1. Lucy

    There was a Fresher at Choral Soc tonight who was in the same choir as me when were about 8 and 6 respectively. I didn’t even know she was in Durham but my goodness that brought it back! I know how you mean about a rush being triggered πŸ™‚

    Sadly, however, I dropped all Science after Dual Award GCSE, so am powerless to explain…

  2. claremohan

    I can’t explain (science makes me frightened) but I do know that it’s not just memory that makes us who we are. There’s more to human beings than that but as to what the rest is…….

    I know that feeling though; I love reminiscing, if they’re good reminiscences. There are other memories that hit you and knock you dead, so that you end up either mentally or actually curled in a corner as they all come flooding in and it takes ages for the flood to go away again. Not sure why the brain does that; maybe occasionally the memory imps (THAT’S how memory works; the IMPS do it all) decide to be overly sadistic and hide all the good stuff….
    Hm. Whatever, you’re right – memory is a funny thing.

    I guess that’s why it’s called a trip down memory lane: you don’t just visit one house, you visit them all and wander up and down going “my god, I didn’t know they’d put an extension in THERE” or “why have they pulled down that tree? I liked that tree”…

    [missive on its way; shorter than normal and slightly dark… if I forget to add a post-script, (a) read Little Dorrit (Dickens) and (b) looking forward with all my heart [tell me, how does the circulatory system work?] to seeing you again! πŸ™‚

    xxxxxxxx

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