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Memory loss

  • 9th Apr, 2005 at 9:43 PM
"You see," he explained, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones."
— Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Through the looking glass
Originally uploaded by sfllaw.

Ever since I was young, I remember being forgetful. Though I don't expect to this to last for very long. My memories of my early youth have already got that faded, foggy feel to them. There's this one scene in my mind where my mother and I were talking on a boat in the middle of Rice Lake; she was calling me "Forgetful Jones" because I "forgot to remember" something important.

Now forgetting is a fairly normal thing. Otherwise, I'd have all this useless knowledge kicking around in my brain taking up space for more important ideas. Which is why I can barely remember the names of my primary school classmates or the addresses of the places I've lived. I lose the words of songs I used to sing by heart. What's distressing is that I forget things that are supposed to be more relevant than that.

I have this awful tendency to drop people out of my mind or to forget things that have happened. Mostly, this seems to be a problem of short-term memory not getting committed to long-term storage. So I will learn someone's name perhaps and then five minutes later will have to ask for it again. Or begin reading a book and by the time I've finished it, I will have forgotten the introduction.

Sometimes it gets worse. Like when I have to look at my driver's licence to fill out personal information on forms. I must look like an identity thief or something. Or I completely forget how much money people owe me because I am generous but not very good at taking notes. My favourite incident of forgetfulness is the one Jim likes to tell.

We were living in Mackenize King Village at the time, a suite-style residence with four bedrooms and a reasonably equipped kitchen. Jim and I liked to keep our front door open into the common hallway and since we were near the staircase, people would pass by all the time. A rare few would poke their heads in and be sociable.

Jim and I were busy making dinner when a girl from down the hall, let's say her name was Kelly, came in. I always remember her as the girl with the cordless phone, since she'd carry it around compulsively, just in case her boyfriend would call. She came in and brought cupcakes and apparently I thanked her and put it down on the counter. I then continued making dinner and at one point not five minutes later, I turned around and exclaimed, "Ooooh cupcake! Where did that come from?" Then I was completely bewildered as to why everyone in the room had burst out laughing.

I think my solution now is to compulsively take notes of my surroundings and write down anything that seems important. If I didn't have constant access to computers, I'd almost certainly be carrying around a stack of index cards. Oh yes, and I've been taking photographs. Many gratutitous photographs. I'm not sure if it's a good plan, but it's certainly been a fun one.

How do you keep from losing your past?


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
10th Apr, 2005 02:17 (UTC)
I think by talking to my mom cause we are pretty close, and to Adria whom I have had insanities with since the age of 14.

10th Apr, 2005 02:44 (UTC)
Interesting post.

I remember having this dilemma back in university: I wanted so hard to grab onto the philosophy books and texts that I was reading-- capture their essence, as it were. It would not be atypical for me to reread some passages 10 or 20 times. No mean task when you're talking about someone like Heidegger.

I think my resolution to the problem was to stop reading so much philosophy. As for my everyday memories, I never really stressed about losing them-- I kind of just trusted my mind to hold onto the important bits. The same now goes for what reading I still do (not nearly enough!).
10th Apr, 2005 03:20 (UTC)
Source Amnesia is poorly defined in my opinion.

I suppose when I spew out some random fact but cannot recollect where I acquired it... when it is more than likely that I read it, or saw it somewhere, sometime. Or perhaps apparitions whispered it softly to me. Or perhaps gypsies have carefully woven it into the fabric of my dreams.


The ambiguity of that particular condition bothers me... but not to the point where I would venture to research it further.

As for memory loss... some people must actually hone their memory skills. You may have trained yourself to recall an abundance of work-related, technical, culinary, etc. information... the inability to recollect how the cupcakes got there... isn't in my opinion a sign of something seriously wrong with your memory. And I wouldn't consider it to be memory loss. I, however, am not a doctor... nor do I play one on TV.

Seems to me that through taking pictures and keeping notes... you will retain far more. In fact, I think that will aid in the honing of memory skills.

:) Nancy
10th Apr, 2005 11:02 (UTC)
The greatest thing about gratuitious photography is that you obtain things you can share with others.

at the very least, you amuse people with forgetfulness. Perhaps it's just being scatterbrained? It can be an endearing quality...sometimes maddening...but cute at the same time. :)

I always love your photos, btw.
10th Apr, 2005 14:23 (UTC)
I always love your photos, btw.

Thank you muchly.
10th Apr, 2005 16:21 (UTC)
>>How do you keep from losing your past?

I'd rather not remember too much of my past :)
11th Apr, 2005 00:46 (UTC)
An interesting topic -- I too wondered the same thing: the entry was here.
11th Apr, 2005 01:02 (UTC)
don't worry
Don't worry... a real identity thief would memorize the personal information so he could fill it in without looking suspicious. So by not knowing it, you prove you're not the thief.
11th Apr, 2005 15:11 (UTC)
My greatest fear is forgetfulness
I've always relied a great deal on being able to reliably remember just about anything (except names) while in any situation. I guess I've always had a fairly good memory (at least for things I see... things I hear can often disappear from my mind quickly).

In fact, I rely on it so much that I don't know how I'd function if I couldn't remember things. It actually bothers me when I forget something and I can't stop thinking about it until I do remember. The result is that forgetfulness is basically my greatest fear. It would seriously impede the way I normally function.

Before the first (and only) time I was drunk, I was terrified of the possibility of not remembering what might happen after I start drinking. In the morning, I was relieved to remember everything (even if the time spent in the washroom wasn't the most pleasant memory).

Maybe that's why I was never really into taking pictures... I tend to remember things (especially visual) quite well. I've started taking pictures since I bought my camera (since I had no method of taking pictures before that), but I really don't use it as much as I probably should.
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )