Wednesday, June 2, 2010

forget about it

for the past week or so i have been completely captivated by a series on about elizabeth loftus, a memory doctor.

yes. a real-life memory doctor. turns out it doesn't just happen in the movies.

i won't pretend to understand all the science involved, but from what i can gather this woman has figured out how to make people think things that never happened, happened. or to make people think that things that did happen never happened at all.

the implications of such a thing are, clearly, mixed. convince people that they once became violently ill after eating strawberry ice cream and they'll probably eat less strawberry ice cream and next thing you know, poof! obesity epidemic solved. but, convince somone that they saw a particular person or kind of person commit a crime, when in fact they did not, and poof! we have a much bigger problem on our hands.

the obvious hollywood parallel here is "eternal sunshine of the spotless mind," which seemed enormously far-fetched before i started reading this series, but now i am just not so sure anymore. and it got me to thinking: would i really want my memories erased?

i mean, sure, it sounds nice. rejection, pain and heartache all gone? embarassment, mocking, scorn all disappeared? seems like we would be idiots not to go for it if we had the chance. if i couldn't remember every rejection of my life in clear and painful detail, maybe i wouldn't be so hesitant to open myself up to those kinds of experiences again. i would be braver, less inhibited.

but i also think i would be totally dumb. operating without the benefit of any useful experience doesn't actually seem like an advantage in the end. and that is what memory is to me. experience. teaching. if i can remember it, it can guide me and inform me, even if it sometimes makes me sad.

so, i think i'll pass on the memory modification for now. though it is sort of fun to think about what you would get rid of if there were no consequences to you or anyone else. i would start by eradicating the mean girls in kindergarten who made fun of me because i loved "he-man" and made me sit on the boys' side of the circle during story time.

how about you?


Mom said...

I remember you liking he-man! But I don't remember you getting teased about it. Did I block that out?

Evan and Holly said...

I would get rid of so many things...probably the time that Kyle spit up in my mouth, but then again, that is funny now. Maybe I would get rid of gallbladder pain and the long trips to the ER, but then again, Evan was always with me and I happen to really enjoy the feeling of morphine. Oh, I have one. I would get rid of the five hours of graduation ceremony I had to sit through at USU the beginning of May. Really uncomfortable seats. :)

Susan said...

changing and erasing memories is inevitable. only physical artifacts are lasting (and even those are problematic since the way we interpret them constantly changes.)

i had a history professor who said, one time, that no book goes out of print faster than a history book. he also said "the past is a foreign country."

i think the lessons we learn from our personal memories are like the lessons we learn from history books and guide books. they are always changing, they serve the present need, and they go out of date fast.

i guess what i'm saying is, i think it's important to maintain a sense of humility and not become too attached to one version of a memory. memories grow and develop. this is generally a good thing, because it allows us to grow too.