Memory is a funny thing. It always has been interesting to me how memories vary. Within ourselves and from one person to another. How do we remember certain things and can’t recall others? How are witnesses to the same event, able to describe different stories?
Mem-o-ry: 1) the ability to retain knowledge: the ability of the mind or of a person or organism to retain learned information and knowledge of past events and experiences and to retrieve that knowledge and information 2) somebody’s stock of retained knowledge and experiences 3) retained impression of events; the knowledge of impression that somebody retains of a person, event, period or subject.
The singular word that stands out to me in Webster’s definition above is ” impression” which is the first and immediate effect of an experience or “perception” of the mind. Is it any wonder then, if memory is of impressions and perceptions that they can vary greatly even with the same event? Not at all.
Take for instance two eyewitnesses to the same actual event. The stories told are told by interpretation and perception. No two individuals hold the exact same interpretation and perception at exactly the same time. There are too many variances in the person themselves. Variances like: intellect, recollection, experiences, personality, information, audio and visual senses, emotion, stimulus and environment. It’s within these combinations in ourselves that we shape our memories. If indeed memory is altered to serve one’s purpose, then indeed it would be a lie. Honest memories are neither truth nor fiction, just memories from our human brains and minds. Our perceptions, our reality.
Memory is far from perfect or permanent. And we certainly can not leave out forgetfulness. One of the most obvious reasons of forgetfulness is the information was never stored in the first place. Not all information is stored into memory. Thus, as we recall this memory as a story- another may interpret it as a lie, or at best a half truth. This can lead to some odd looks, and into an uncomfortable situation where we may find the need to defend our truth, our perception, our own memory. Happens all the time.
There are three stages to memory. Encoding, storage and retrieval. These three stages tend to stay the same from person to person. Also true from person to person are the three separate stages of memory. Sensory memory, which uses visual or auditory information that is stored for a short few seconds. Short term memory, which Freud said is mainly the “conscious” mind, our active memory, which is stored on average for about 30 seconds but has the ability to transfer to long-term memory. And long-term memory. Information that can be recalled easily. Organizing of our memories lets us recall information to make decisions and solve problems. We usually cluster and categorize this information as it relates to other information and experiences.
How we interpret the world is told through stories. Stories we tell ourselves and others. They say the best way to get to know someone is through the telling of a story. It’s how we communicate to one another. It’s how we express living and our experiences on this beautiful planet. It is indeed our reality. Our perception of our own lives and who we are. Memory by memory, one thought and experience at a time.
“Everyone needs his memories. It keeps the wolf of insignificance from the door” ~ Saul Bellow
“Every man’s memory is his private literature” ~ Aldous Huxley
“I am a miser of my memories of you – and you will not spend them” ~ Witter Bynner, “Coins”
Note: the above information may or may not be true. As they say, all the world’s a stage.