Monday, November 16, 2009

Bridges of the mind


Memory is such a curious thing. I've begun to think of it as little bridges we can cross where we see some bit of what's on the other side but may have to travel to find whatever we're looking for. We may get lost. We may get confused. We may change the scenery.
Do I sound obtuse? Sorry if I do, but memory isn't particularly clear cut. Ask several people about the same event and you get different viewpoints, sometimes conflicting.
I have just spent a glorious few days submerged in events with friends and family. Memories were an intense part of the experience, but I began to realize how much they differ from one person to the next. Part of that is what we choose to remember, I think, and part is that there are an awful lot of bridges and distant places in our minds. How could any of us follow the same trails? Or perhaps we know where the dragons live and are sure to avoid that direction. At one event we memorialized someone by recalling his talent and charisma, but we clearly chose not to cross the bridge to where his dragons lived. When I saw a much younger me pop up on a slide show of his life, I waved at her. I thought of her with bittersweet fondness. But I stopped halfway across that bridge and turned back. The room was filled with people whose lives were making new memories. That was the glory.

17 comments:

PJ Hoover said...

I love the phenomenon of different people viewing things so differently. Wait, here comes a Star Trek comment. Remember TNG episode where each person recreated what they thought happened on the holodeck? It was such a fun exercise.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

PJ: Whoa, you have taken this into another dimension. No, I didn't see that episode but if something is a holographic replication how would you ever know what really happened??? Sounds fascinating.

Karen Denise said...

PJ, I love when shows do that...show everyone's perception of the same event.

Tricia, I often listen to my father tell stories of when I was a child and I either have no memory of the event or my memory is entirely different. It used to make me sad, thinking my father has either recreated my childhood or that he is developing organic brain syndrome-lol. But after an incident at work, I had the same realization you did, people see things differently, understand things differently and process things differently and therefore their memories are going to be different.
Great post!

Corey Schwartz said...

Oh, great post and discussion. Another show that did that brilliantly was the British show Coupling. If you can catch it on the BBC or find the DVD, I recommend it.

Lisa and Laura said...

I think you've got the start of a book here, right? I mean I know it's been done before but I think it would be fascinating to read a book that really honed in on selective memory and the impact that has on the characters. Fascinating.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Karen: I think parent/child memories really come off different because of perspective--a small child has such limited experience and everything that happens is so magnified and significant, whereas an adult is busy with a million things and may not even think what happened meant much. But it sure tweaks your head when someone talks about something as if it were a totally different situation. A couple of times I wondered if I was crazy when stuff like that happened.

Corey: Oh goodey, I love BBC shows, so I will put Coupling on my Netflix list. Yay!

Lisa & Laura: Wow, I wasn't thinking book, I was just noodling the last few days but it would be a challenge to weave different characters memories and how they live with that.

Tabitha Bird said...

Wow. I love the title of this post. Bridges of the mind. I think about memories all the time because I am writing a memoir! Reality is thus a slippery thing, because sometimes bridges get broken.

Donna said...

Odd how our senses can be the bridge that leads us into unexpected memories. While I was gone this weekend, my husband set out a scented Santa. I paid no attention last night, but when I awakened this morning, I was greeted by the spirit of Christmas past.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Tabitha: Oooo, yes, sometimes the bridges do get broken, by accident or by design. Good observation.

Donna: Smell is so powerful. There are several that cause visceral reactions for me. Your husband put the Santa out before Thanksgiving??? Hopefully, the scent was a sweet one for you.

beth said...

Oh, man, now I realllllly wanna see that Start Trek episode...

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Beth: me, too!

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

Yup, it's all subjective. Especially how and IF we remember things.

Angela said...

I love this post! I'm bookmarking it because I sense there is a story here for me. Not sure what, but I can feel it there. Thank you!

Terresa said...

I so enjoy visiting here and soaking up your deep thoughts. You are a thinker.

With my husband's family last year we chatted about their growing up years. Between 4 of them (all siblings) they each had a different "story" of how certain family events happened.

It was an unintended exercise, but one that I found so telling, in what each of them held dear, in those memories.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Karen: Those IFs are huge sometimes--like black holes. But I think it all plays a role.

Angela: How cool is that! I'm honored, for sure.

Terresa: Wow. Thank you. Sometimes it's hard to know if you are talking to yourself or making sense to anyone else. You made my day.

Solvang Sherrie said...

I love this post! I love how our memories with time and perspective, too. And it's interesting how we tend to self-edit them as well.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Sherrie: Thanks! We do self-edit, so much so that it makes me wonder how much of our history, or the world's, is really what we think we know. And now I'm getting too philosophical for how tired I am. ;)