Monday, March 19, 2007


As you avid readers know I have be reading a book on the nature of memory. Today’s Manic Monday topic, chip, fit well into my ponderings on the subject. When asked what shapes a person, many will reflect back on their past experiences. In order to really know what we are like as humans we must remember things we have seen, done, or understood. In this way, it can be said that we are made up of our memories. If we can’t remember, we are doomed to suffer an incomplete notion of ourselves.

This led me to think of time and how, as time passes, parts of our memories are chipped away. I don’t think that our brains have a limited capacity for memory. I believe that as new memories are introduced it interferes with our previous engrams (the memory linkages encoded within the brain) and these new experiences act as chisels, slowly chipping out and disrupting linkages and connections so that, while the memory remains, our ability to retrieve it is shattered.

I look at our memories as a complex sculpture. Try to imagine the face of a childhood friend who moved away and you lost touch with. Maybe you can see their hair, or their eyes, but their nose has been chipped into an idealized version of what truly was. Roxanne reminded me that she was at the Tori Amos concert I attended while in college. She had been chipped out of my memory by the fact that I only remembered that the college friends were there. Since I knew it happened in college it would logically follow that the people I always was with were the people that would have been in attendance. I was wrong. What was interesting was that Roxanne remembered Jenna being there as well. I could be wrong, but I think I drove to the concert and Roxanne and Jenna visited together during my Freshman year when I wasn’t allowed to have a car on campus. Roxanne drove out with me in, I believe, my Junior year so Jenna couldn’t have been with us. Tori played songs from “To Venus and Back Again” so that solidified the fact that it had to have been a later date then when Jenna was there.

The point is that we all remember events differently. Time chips away at the truth and we may or may not even be aware of it happening. We put our past together by filling in the gaps with reference information and create a world that we believe to be true. In all honesty, how can we ever know what fragments have been lost and what has been constructed to take their place? We can ask people who were there with us, but what has been chipped from their consciousness? What can we decipher as truth? What can we really rely on if we can’t rely on ourselves to tell us what has been?

It seems that we must be content to rely on fragments. Maybe while looking at the crumbs left from chipped memories scattered around our consciousness we will be able to reconstruct some of the lost truth. Maybe we have to understand that we are more than what we can recall. What has, in some instances been chipped away will remain hidden in other recesses of the mind waiting to be glued back to the event it was lost from and bring us closer to understanding what it really is that we are made of.

Now it is time to see if we can remember songs after seeing their first lyrics. Studies show that recollection is much easier after prompting.

1. Oh I'd rather go and journey where the diamond crest is flowing/ and run across the valley beneath the sacred mountain. Wasn't Born To Follow, The Byrds. Identified by Johnny Yen and kind of sort of by Monica but I'll give her credit cause I love her.

2. Try to see it my way/ Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on. We Can Work It Out, The Beatles. Identified by Jaclyn and Johnny Yen

3. I took my baby on a Saturday bang/ Boy is that girl with you/Yes were one and the same. Black or White, Michael Jackson. Identified by Sanni

4. This microphone explodes/ shattering the molds/ Either drop the hits like de la o/ or get the fuck off the commode. Bulls On Parade, Rage Against The Machine. Identified by Sanni

5. All the modern things/ like cars and such/ have always existed. The Modern Things, Bjork. Identified by Danielle


taureandevi said...

Your musical repetore is so vast, I was lost until number 5.
Bjork The Modern Things from Post.

I pride myself on my memory but it is very selective. I remember moments that have an emotional attachment, or that have to do with creativity such as a song or image but ask me about more earthly moments that happened last week couldn't tell you. Everything we encounter passes through the sieve of our background experience so we experience things as we see them and not as they "are" so that would explain how our memories are so personalized.

Wishing you well

Jaclyn said...

Number 2 is "We can work it out" by The Beatles.

Coincidentally, you mentioned in your previous post that I had been at the Tori Amos concert with you when in fact I did not go to that one with you. I wish I had, but I can't remember now why I hadn't. I definitely remember being invited.

Strange, eh?

Johnny Yen said...

Damn- someone beat me to it-- "We Can Work It Out" is #2.

Have you ever heard Stevie Wonder's version? It very, very good.

Johnny Yen said...

Ah ha! Just realized that #1 is "Wasn't Born to Follow" by the Byrds. Heard that one on satellite radio a few weeks ago-- I was surprised to hear a Byrds song I'd never heard before. Made a note to download it.

One of the great concerts I ever saw was at Ravinia-- McGuinn, Clark and Hillman, in the summer of 1979. They were most of the Byrds (David Crosby was missing). It was marvelous. Roger McGuinn came out on roller skates for the encore. They played a lot of my Byrds' favorites, including "Chestnut Mare" (the one about the boy catching the wild horse).

Crazy Working Mom said...

What a GREAT Manic Monday post! You stike a good point. I used to think that there were things that I would never forget, like teacher's names, friends in school that I have since lost touch with, etc. But, eventually you do! The brain is an amazing thing, isn't it!?

Monica said...

Dang, Johnny yen beat me. I was all prepared to not know the name of it but report it as the byrds song from easy rider. dang.

Eve said...

Memory is so fascinating. It's always interesting to me how two people have different memories of the same experience. It's also a bit frustrating knowing that you can't trust your own memories to be true, whatever that means.

Natalie said...

Danielle- It seems that emotional memories do have the strongest chance to remain intact. I think because it includes so many parts of our brain contributing to one event it tends to be stronger.

Jaclyn- It was awesome, you should have come. At least you experienced it in my mind. Very strange.

Johnny- No I haven't, I wish I could download it. Maybe after computer is fixed. I hear Ravinia is a great place for music. I may have to go sometime.

CWM- I feel the same way, there is so much we thought was vitally important to our being at one point and as it fades so does the memory of it. The brain is a strange and wondrous thing indeed.

Monica- Your intentions are well noted.

Eve- It's a little scary. One of the stories in the book I was reading caused a famous psychologist to be indicted for rape because he was on live TV while the rape occurred and the woman associated his face with the moment. Obviously since the broadcast was live he was let go pretty quickly.

Empress Bee (of the High Sea) said...

my daughter and i remember lots of things differently.....

smiles, bee

notfearingchange said...

Ginkgo Biloba! Herbal meds to aid in memory retention....

my own memory is somewhere around here... ;-)

Sanni said...

Just two words: fantastic post =)

#3) Michael Jackson: Black Or White
#4) Rage Against The Machine: Bulls On Parade

Thanks for the great fun! I was sure I couldn´t keep it at two words! *LOL*


This was a very introspective post, especially since I'm having problems with my short-term memory!
And yes, memory is experienced differently as evidenced by policemen gathering testimony by eyewitnesses at an accident!

Anonymous said...

Time chipping away at your memories! What a great MM! Very thought provoking :-)

Thanks for visiting!

Michael C said...

Wow, very interesting. I often remember things differently than my wife does. She'll remember that she asked me to take the trash out, for instance. I seem not to remember that particular thing ;-)

Phil said...

I'm always interested, when I watch an actor work on sense memory, is the indirect route they take when they mine their memories. Smell is often the strongest sense associated with memory.

Travis said...

Excellent post about memory. I often wonder why I can remember one thing, but not another that happened during the same time period.

I like the way you characterize this as an "incomplete notion of ourselves".

Gattina said...

The strange thing with memories is, that older people remember better things which had happened in their childhood or youth and not that their neighbor died yesterday.

Lizza said...

Very thought-provoking post, Natalie. Sometimes I see or hear something and it brings back a memory of something very special, and I wonder "How could I have forgotten about that?"

Jeff Roberts said...

Good post! I took a "Psychology of Learning" class in college and we spent a lot of time talking about memory.

I recently confronted someone about several hurtful/rude things he had done over the past few years. He didn't remember, I couldn't forget. Grrr. :-)

it's the little things... said...

I read something interesting years ago, and I wish I still ahd the book. It was about where one positions their eyes when they are side was numerical memory, one was verbal memory, one was creation (which is when someone is making up a lie), etc. It was SO interesting, and it worked on everyone I tried it with!

Natalie said...

Empress- I think that is a function of children. I generally like my version better than that of my parents.

Not Fearing- I wonder how that stuff works, medically speaking. What does it bind with and so forth?

Sanni- Thanks for the great guesses! Glad you had a good time. I aim to please.

Amazing Gracie- Thanks for stopping by. It worries me as far as arrests go but we typically get the right criminal.

Kai- Thanks for stopping by yourself. For some reason MM gets my creative juices flowing.

Michael- I think that is a trait of people in relationships, selective memory can be very helpful.

Phil- I'll agree about smell, it generally produces very vivid memories.

Natalie said...

Travis- I think it may have to do with the impact on the rest of our lives, or how often we recall the event closer to the time it happened. I think the imprints get stronger that way.

Gattina- That is strange, maybe because the memories had more time to sink in and as we age the encoding process weakens in some? Maybe?

Lizza- Totally true, that is going to be in my post today. I dreamt I was in the Philippines last night and we were getting facials for seven dollars at a really nice hotel. How odd.

Jeff- Sometimes the things we do that hurt other people seem very minor to us and we forget. It is important that you reminded him.

Little Things- That sounds fascinating. I know I turn my head when I am thinking (which makes me look stupid) but I never paid attention to where my eyes go.

ENID P. said...

I wish i could put my memories in a jar... like in Harry Potter and just pick them up when I need them...
This way they could stay intact.


Natalie said...

Enid- Wouldn't that make things nicer. I know there are wonderful things that are just lost to me.