Filed under: Too weird for fiction
Fragile and elusive, we depend on memory for so much of our understanding of ourselves, our loved ones, and the world.
Every week I encounter some truly flabbergasting quirk in memory amonth my dearest friends, family members, and loved ones. There is a very narrow selection of people who I deeply trust to preserve accurate memories over years and decades; off the top of my head, I can count five of them. If you dig into people I have only known sporadically, or who I know largely *because* of their excellent memories, you can perhaps make it to ten.
Of course memory is a double-edged sword. When I find that someone’s memory differs significantly from mine, even if there is a third party involved who agrees with one or the other of us, I could always be the one misremembering. Quite a frustrating dilemma. Only if you have at least two external sources who agree with you, can you feel confident that you are remembering correctly some disputed event.
Quite interesting to me, is the detachment of memory accuracy from mental acuity and brilliance. The people I trust to have perfect memories span the range of traditional ‘smarts’, and those whose memories change so often I’m certain they are unreliable, include two of the most brilliant people I have ever met.
In any case, I felt only deep understanding upon reading this story about Vietnam vets and their changing memories of spitting during their homecomings. It also reminded me a bit of a story I was editing not long ago…
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