14 January 2008


I want to touch on memory and uses it can be put. This is theory, but out of theory comes everyday behavior, thus it would be useful to us all, certainly to me, as I think and write about it. Let me add that I, like most everyone, have been troubled by unpleasant memories. Let's examine.

Memory, or recall, is problematic, as is everything in Psychology, but one leading strain of thought is that what we call "memory" is NOT some stable collection of mental representations stored away in a brain storehouse waiting intact to be called forth. They are not fixed forms. Instead, memories are imaginative reconstructions of what we experienced in the past. We reconstruct the experience in the present context consistent with our present uses. We are mining the past to reconstruct the present. Memories, then, are plausible stories that we construct NOW to be useful now.

For example, one use I put to memories is to reconstruct an interesting life. I would say that a significant part of this is that I have CHOSEN to reconstruct an interesting life because it suits my present purposes. I could reconstruct--using the same life experiences--a life of stupid moves! For example, while in Bolivia and Peru, because I had read a sensationalist book--Eric von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods--I thought it would be interesting to visit the Nazca Lines, those mysterious markings in the coastal desert of southern Peru. The problem was that we were in Puna, Peru, on Lago Titicaca, and the Andes Mountain range lay between! So, what do I propose to do?--well, rent a jeep and driver and just drive across the mountains! Guess what?--no roads!

So, there are two ways to tell the story: The one of adventure, picking our way around boulders and past wild herds of the exquisitely graceful guanaco, in the wild-flowered altiplano meadows, at 13,000', where no humans live (and certainly don't drive jeeps!); or the story of collossal stupidity.

To conclude the story: We survived after some days, descending down to the salmon-hued, volcanic city of Arequipa. (And, the Nazca Lines on the desert floor were a complete non-event. Oh, well.) My ex-spouse likes to remind me of my occasional lunacy. I prefer and choose to recall the telling of adventure. Both are true. Only one gets told.

The reconstruction of memory can hopefully help us see from where and how far we have come--but, it is our call to interpret. We could choose to recall happy memories which conform to our purposes as a presently happy person. As I like to say--It is never too late to have a happy childhood. And, my reconstruction of interesting experiences seems to validate FOR ME that I have some worth. (I've had doubts.)

Each of us remembers and reconstructs for our own idiosyncratic purposes. I just hope you don't recall and reconstruct to justify to yourself that you are unworthy or undeserving of present happiness and blessings.

Perhaps the best recollection, if we could remember back to before we were born, is that we are all Children of God. Now, that's a good memory.

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