5.21.2008

Memories are not what you think

There's a woman I read about in National Geographics. She is not a Savant, just another person like you and me. But she can remember the events of a day going back twenty years. Centuries ago, before technology, and before Barnes and Noble, people were considered intelligent if they had a good memory. A Peter of Ravenna had tomes memorized, including the entire Bible, and would "re-read" books in his mind as he travelled the roads of ancient Italy.

But memories are not what you think. Atleast not all that you think!

The following is a true story. The name has been changed, because, well, I don't know the guy's name. This guy, let's call him Jose. Jose hated elevators. Which may be tolerable except that he lived in a high rise. The panic attacks came intermittantly, and unexpectedly. One day, he entered the elevator and met up with an elderly neighbor whom he rarely saw. He exchanged a tentative smile with her even though he could feel his pulse quicken and his panic rise.

Then, through the panic, something came to him. At that moment, he realized that this woman smelled just like his mother...one of those old fashioned fragrances. The mother that brutally abused him as a child. If this neighbor left her lingering scent in the elevator, Jose would start to panic, and he could not tie it to anything in particular, except the elevator, until that moment.

Memories are not what you think. It isn't all about verbal or image recall, stored in your consciousness. Memories are often "stored" in your body, somewhere. I find this fascinating.

Do you, or do you know someone who gets sad at certain times of the year? When I was a naive 15, I dated a very handsome 18 year old. All summer long, he'd pick me up in his Mustang at dusk and we'd do the movie/pizza routine. By the end of the summer, when he hadn't gotten what he thought was a package deal, he broke up with me. For years and years after, when August would wane and the sun would lean toward the horizon, I would get malancholy without knowing why. Some people actually develop real, physical symptoms - allergies, illnesses as well as phobias. Do certain songs, smells, tastes take you back to another time? or more accurate to this phenomenon, do you get in a mood you can't explain? Your body may very well remember, triggered by an unrecognized stimulus.

Memories are not what you think.

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1 comment:

dcrmom said...

YES! I still get morning sickness EVERY spring. WEIRD.