America’s short attention span has been well noted. Today’s Dire Events line tonight’s birdcage and are replaced by tomorrow’s Brainless Trivia. And we sail on into Whatever. We’re so inundated with disconnection and dissociation we can’t possibly file it where we can find it, and so we lapse into short-term memory loss.
Well, the zen masters say, “Live in the present.” I think they may have also said, “But be cognizant of the past,” but I’m not so clear on that part.
Very little is known about how the brain works. Much of that ingnorance is concentrated in the realm of memory and recall. And, of course, my main personal resource is the Science section of the Tuesday New York Times. So don’t quote me to people who actually know stuff unless you want to get laughs. This won’t stop me, though.
A couple of years ago, I read “somewhere” that memories seem to be stored in arrays of binary cells. These cells are either “empty” or “full”. Either they hold a miniscule electronic charge, or they don’t. And the pattern of empty/full constitutes the memory.
This is exactly the way files are stored on hard drives, which either gives some weight to the idea (human inventors follow the body’s model) or doesn’t (I ‘heard’ that’s the way computers work, and reasoned backwards).
Most memories are stored in one or two thousand places (there’s soo many cells in your brain…). Yet, they can be wiped out with one “shot” (don’t ask me of what. the NYT didn’t go into that).
But when something Really Big happens, the memory is stored Everywhere, Just so we don’t forget it until we die.
We can’t avoid it. Everywhere we turn, there it is.
My clearest memory of That Day, ten years ago, was of a friend of my daughter’s. She was at work in a neighborhood 4-hour photo processing place. In those days, there was this business with kiosks in supermarket parking lots. You drove up to the kiosk, handed over your one-shot instant cameras with the exposed film sealed inside, then came back a couple hours later and picked up your pictures.
This girl worked in the lab, a windowless garage-like room equidistant from four or six kiosks. Her job was to collect the prints and the negatives and make sure they wound up in the right envelopes. Around noon, she began to notice fewer backyards and grandmas and more city street scenes, some quite dramatic, some downright scary.
She called her mother, who was at home, not work. And that’s how she found out.
Illicitly, she copied one print several times. It was of several New York City buildings, surrounding a patch of empty sky. Where the Towers once were.
I still have the print, I’ll run it, as soon as I can find it.