Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I've never gotten used to it, I've just learned to turn it off

Here is a neat idea (emphasis mine):
The findings challenge long-held views about the function of the hippocampus and the nature of memory, says Lynn Nadel, a cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "The claim here is that the same system we use to remember the past we also use to construct possible futures," says Nadel.

I have often remarked at how long it takes me to get over things, and how, even after I am over them, memories still sweep over me constantly, knocking me down at the most unexpected moments. Sometimes, I want to shake myself out of these slumps. Sometimes, I want to forget. I like to think that I only remember the good things now, that, even when I look back on the bad phases of my life, I cling to the positive. And consciously, that is somewhat true. But there are times when I can feel the sucker punch, and it is not just the sucker punch of the moment- it is the sucker punch that comes with reverberations, echoes of all the kicks to the gut that came before it.

And sometimes I forget the moments of pain and that feels almost more tragic. Why doesn't it mean so much now? Have I grown so inured?

By studying amnesiacs, scientists are determining what it really means to forget. Technically, I am giving them too much credit- they're really studying what happens when the hippocampus is damaged. Previously, it was thought that the hippocampus only serves to create new memories and keep them around for short-term retrieval. But from the work conducted, it appears that we need to remember, because remembering seems closely associated with our ability to imagine possibilities.

I want to believe it. I want to believe that all the wallowing and navel-gazing serves some purpose. And actually, I do believe it. I did not believe it before, but in the last six months, I feel convinced somehow. There has to be some balance. There has to be a point when you take your memories, embrace them, and then fuel them into propelling you forward. I find, from thinking of people or incidents that have happened, that I can reinterpret events so many times that there is a richness to what could possibly unfold. If the past, which has already happened, which is already concrete in so many ways, is still so multifaceted, so uncertain, so unclear, my mind explodes at the thought of what the future could bring, both good and bad.

And if none of this serves to convince you, then read this- even if it later turns out that the past bears no significance on the future, sometimes it is just beautiful, the act of remembering.

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