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Memory: A Simple Observation

Memory: A Simple Observation

I think that many of us have our soapboxes, trivial facts, or observations that we routinely bring into conversations.  I have several that I keep on reserve for appropriate social gatherings.  One topic that has maintained a regular spot in my repertoire throughout the years deals with memory.  Basically, I think it’s fascinating and strange how much we forget.  I actually could probably search for some kind of statistic that explains how much of our lives we forget, but I’m confident from my own experience that we forget most of it.  Whole conversations, events, movies, books…well, basically anything you can think of, have been diminished and become a blurry blend of images and emotions tied loosely to the conscious area of our mind.

Some of these memories are obviously clearer than others – often times ones with particular significance.  Nevertheless, I find that I have to stretch my mind to accurately put together the details of even the most noteworthy of past occurrences.  College graduation was probably an important event in my life, and I guess that I “remember” it, but I don’t think that I could accurately recite even one sentence that was spoken on that day.

Furthermore, many seemingly “clear” memories are of events that seem to hold little weight in the shaping of our lives.  For example, I still know almost all the words to the album Enema of the State by Blink 182 (I tested this out recently), and I can remember singing along with teammates while carpooling to soccer practice.  Perhaps this album, and events tied to it, had some real significance in my life that I’m unaware of.  However, my personal opinion is that my 12 year-old self was simply enthralled by some catchy melodies, and enjoyed yelling the lyrics with unnecessary emphasis on the curse words.  I will concede that I must have been having fun and that is usually something worth remembering.  But I still find it strange that this memory lasted, while so many others have faded away into nothing.

Where does it all go?  Do events make a simple and concise splash in our minds, subtly mold our being, and then slip away into our subconscious?  Do they disappear from our brains altogether? Writing about this topic already diverts my mind in several different directions.  It is likely for this reason that I enjoy bringing it up in conversation.  However, due to my limited knowledge of brains, minds, souls, beings (all the abstract parts of a person), I find that I never come to any kind of conclusion regarding memory – I simply develop more questions.  Therefore, all I can leave you with is my own observation: We are all extremely complex, and maybe we have a decent idea of who we are right now, but we barely remember how we got here.

Julian Burton

About The Author

Julian Burton is a writer for The Pender Journal. He graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with degrees in both Psychology and Religious Studies, and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Urban and Regional Planning at The Florida State University.

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