where do memories go?


Beautiful memories that light up the cells of your brain and warm you to your toes and make you smile. Or haunting ones that cling where they aren’t wanted and won’t go away. Or memories that aren’t clear or focused and precise enough to make it to consciousness, like a portion of a dream that’s slipping away as you awake, aware of how much you desperately want to hold it close and never let it go.

Memories. Are we not made of them?

What happens to memories when we don’t visit them? How much do they change? How much is altered? What falls away? What gets added?

A frozen water droplet.

Image via Wikipedia

What happens when you don’t want to face a memory? When you don’t want to remember? When a moment is frozen and keeps repeating itself over and over? What happens when you want to leave that memory in its place, that city, that event, that person, that street, that feeling. Leave it exactly where it is and not take it with you — walk away from it, let it evaporate, let it crumble, let it disintegrate back into the marrow of the universe? What happens to the space inside where it lived? What happens if there is never an occasion to remember a moment that would be a memory save for the lack of necessity to remember?

Who would you be without your memories? How would you make sense of yourself and your world without them?

How easy it is to ask questions about memories. And there are whole fields of science studying memory and asking questions.

But the stuff of memory is the stuff of life and living and doing and being, all of it perfectly imperfect. Memory is said to be essential to who we are, although one could argue that it might be helpful to add a dose of mindful awareness that memory is through filters: it is only a single perspective of an immense reality. And yet, that single perspective rules us in ways we are only beginning to glimpse.

The science of memory, the story of memory that’s emerging is fascinating enough. The art of memory? Our creation of memory? Even better.


About FS

Toronto, Canada. Writing about slices of life, the moments and minor details of which come into awareness or out of imagination and the spaces inbetween.
This entry was posted in Life and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Memories

  1. letempspasse says:

    Interesting questions indeed. How do we build memory? Why do we chose to (consciously or unconsciously) recall or repress a memory? Or even invent others? Such an intricate piece of machinery this brain of ours. What role does our soul have in this process? Where does karmic memory come into play?
    I tend to agree with you, memory is much like a little bitty snapshot of a situation seen from a certain angle at a specific point in time. First you pay attention, then press record (sometimes involuntarily). What you do with the information after is where all your interesting question come in.
    I don’t know if memory defines who we are. Certainly defines how we interact with others, but who are we? I always wonder about that when I meet patients with dementia, who gradually lose their capacity to recall important memories. I like to think “who they are” is just hiding, still intact, but out of sight. Their soul is (and can only be) intact, isn’t it? So who are we really? The sum of body and experiences or just the eternal silent witness inside?

    • FS says:

      Hmmm … Questions. Great, chewy, provocative ones, too. As to any possible answers, does it not all depend on what one believes? But I say that believing it not yet possible to have a definitive answer. It is a powerful question you ask: who are we really, although I don’t pretend to have an answer or even a solid speculation. Just some fuzzy wonderings. Allow me a riff off of your comment?

      Soul. Spirit. Energy. Does it remain unchanging as the physical body forgets, as the brain changes? Is soul any different from mind? Can we ever know? Is soul a creation of mind? And if it does remain unchanged, isn’t that against natural laws? How does that fit with evolution..? Or is that more about levels and layers of awareness; ancient yoga and Buddhist practices which I’ll paraphrase into still mind, still heart, still spirit; resulting in a transcendence, pure awareness, which some people have taken and extrapolated to the science of theoretical physics. There are people who believe in soul and people who do not. Who are we really? What are the things that make us who we are? Are we part of one huge, intergalactic, benevolent, healing anti-Borg collective, or part of a scrappy group of isolated individuals doing the best we can with what we got, creating communities of practice and belief or something in between? Today I think — cuz it could change tomorrow — that there is no single thing that defines who we are, although I do wonder if there IS a single thing, is it our mind?

      However, memory is essential still; the memories we hold inform our personality and behaviour, both the explicit and shadow aspects. I don’t think that removes the freedom to choose what we do and how we think; memory might just give us a starting point for some things, a frame of reference we can use, adjust or discard. Who we are at our core — whatever our core is — is perhaps for some of us more than the sum of memory and experience. Silent eternal witness… that internal voice. Isn’t there a web of nerves around the gut, and doesn’t one of them lead directly to the brain? (Gut feel) Isn’t there a similar band or nerves around the heart? Aren’t we bags of mostly water with some electrical, chemical magnetic reactions going on that can cut some cool moves on the dance floor? Are we ever, truly silent? Even in meditation? Even in all of the other things we do to focus or distract ourselves? Maybe we are programmed for something other than for simply existing — maybe we just don’t know what it is and maybe it isn’t the same for everyone. Maybe meaning is personally constructed? Or maybe ours is a confused age in terms of spirituality (in the sense of meaning making).

      And a big hmmmm on karmic memory. As in migration of the soul? (Or transmigration) Well, we apparently show a preference for music we heard when we were kids and in utero, and technically, in utero is before we were born. If one is to consider the possibility of such a thing as karma, and karmic memory, then perhaps it can be considered in the context of the theory that there is no such thing as time or space. Karma, and the afterlife: a concept that has migrated through societies since before the Egyptians is absolutely fascinating on so many levels, including political. 🙂 A riff for another day. And wow: thank you. I do believe my brain is in its happy shoes, pinging and somersaulting. Thank you!

      • letempspasse says:

        Bags of water with electrical and magnetic fields? How unpoetic… 😉
        Your “small “riff off my previous comment contains even more food for thought than the post! Thank you. You made me smile….

      • FS says:

        Your comment gave me much to riff on and if it brought a smile, well, a smile is a wonderful thing. Unpoetic? Moi? Maybe 😉 Somedays. I meant it as a juxtaposition to awe; a thing to behold, even if admittedly, it is reductionist.

  2. terrisitagg says:

    Wow. I remember your brilliance. Your ability to pull thoughts and thought-shapes into reality. Brava, bella!

Comments are closed.