Memory is a strange beast because it is never a totally accurate perception. I wonder if we value memory because it is so fleeting? If you lose your memory through alzheimer’s or an accident – which I think is a horrible thing to happen and having seen it up close, I wish it on no one – but I find myself asking, what do you lose if you don’t know you’ve lost it? Are we losing ‘ourselves’ when that happens? Crime investigators don’t rely on eyewitnesses because they are so unreliable and yet, our history is based on people’s recollections, often formulated long after the fact. A memoir is just that, a recollection of memories that we want to recall for a specific purpose.
I heard something on the Charlie Rose show (yes, I do watch it every now and then) that I’ve been thinking about ever since. A guest pointed out that neurologically we don’t remember an event but rather we remember the last time we remembered so that our memory is actually a memory of a memory which itself was a memory of the memory before that. With each memory, does the actual event recede further away from our grasps? Does this mean that our brain is constantly rewriting the old memories, making new ones that reflect our expectations more than the actual event/place?
I deal with historical records all the time so memory is a big part of my life but if what we are actually seeing is a memory of a memory, maybe it is an indicator that we are really creatures/species designed for the here and now, a species with less control over our destiny than we’re comfortable admitting. Maybe, it tells us time is a fleeting constraint that needs to be loosened in order to reach new places.
I opine about memory on a day when I sat outside on some bricks with my morning coffee, basking in beautiful summer sunshine, closed my eyes and recalled the beach in Jaffa where I use to live. Briefly, the smell of salt in the air filtered into my nostrils, my ears detected waves crashing upon the rocks and my body relaxed in the peace to be found there. For a brief moment, with my eyes closed, I thought I could hear teens cutting class to take a dip in the water, feel the sand beneath me, shifting, ever elusive as the memory itself.