What Is Memory?

I don’t know how I came to be thinking about memory but the more I thought about it the more I realized how little is known about it. How does it work? How does our memory, whatever it is, recall events of the past? What if our memory stopped working? .We have all probably heard stories about people who have had amnesia. Simple or complex amnesia is not total amnesia. They may forget who they are and most everything about themselves and they may forget their names and the people in their lives, where they went to school and most everything else about themselves but they usually still retain certain skills they acquired in life. They may one day discover they can play the piano but can not remember ever having learned to play or taking lessons. Some things are retained and many things are forgotten but you never quite lose your total memory. You learned to walk and speak a language and even after losing most of your memory you can still do many of these things. If it were possible to suffer total memory loss we would be as helpless as a baby and be totally defenseless and at peril for our life. I believe every sentient being created has memory. One can only imagine the horror of memory loss as it would affect you should you by accident or mental disease, such as Alzheimers disease, become such a victim. My wife had this terrible disease and I saw a woman with two Masters Degrees, a vibrant public speaker and outstanding artist slowly fade away and finally not remembering she had a husband and in the end losing her battle for life.  Memory is as essential to human and animal existence as the very air we breath. A tree or plant does not have memory as we have it. They are rooted to the ground and certainly they are not going anywhere. It’s very existence and mode of living has been encoded in it’s DNA.

The human and animal kingdom all have this gift of memory and yet we know almost nothing, or at least very little, about it. Memory has to be recalled and interpreted. This means another faculty has to be called upon. What will we call it? Reasoning? Intellect? What determines what we do with what we have recalled? It is all done so spontaneously we do not even think about it. Now there’s another faculty I didn’t mention, ‘thinking’. There is so much going on that we can not totally comprehend the magnitude of it. There is a seamless integration of many working faculties that is done in nanoseconds making it beyond our comprehension. Suffice it to say that we are very fortunate not to have to consciously make all these millions of calculations and decisions every second. There would be no time for anything else. Fortunatly our brain seems to be on automatic.

Look around you and see this wonderous world, and think, because you can, of the sweet and precious memories you have. In the end our memories determine who we are. Our memories make us ‘time travelers’ able to revisit the past time and time again.

It is because of the past that we can imagine the future.

It is no wonder that King David said, “I will (praise) give thanks to you God for I am fearfully and wonderfully made”.

Psalm 139:14.

And that is…

As I See It

Roy Lamont

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This entry was posted in Posts.

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