Thursday, November 15, 2007

He read all the papers

and forgot everything immediately - clever boy. There are times when I really worry about all the things I have to remember - pin numbers, log-ons, passwords, names, addresses, phone numbers, friend's dietary restrictions etc. etc. You get the idea. Then we worry about getting senile the minute we can't remember where we put our glasses, or car keys, or did we turn off the iron, lock the door and where the hell did I park the car?

It seems to me that not too many generations ago we didn't have to remember so much stupid stuff to be able to get along in the world. You always knew where you lived and, so long as it wasn't your town's turn to be burned, raped and pillaged, you could be pretty sure of not losing your way home or getting killed on the way. Even senility probably had its advantages since everybody knows old people remember every little thing that used to be including where everything goes, when it's the right time to plant the crops and the names and habits of all the locals who were young when he/she was also young. These reminiscences provided a lot of entertainment on long summer afternoons and cold winter nights. People weren't looking at their watches and wondering if it was too late to get Grandpa signed up at the nursing home and still be able to catch David Letterman.

Although people didn't have to remember new log-ons every other time they signed on their computer at work what's really amazing is the things some of them did remember. The Bhagavad Gita, one of the oldest and longest stories in human history, wasn't written down until a couple of thousand years ago when it was finally transcribed in Sanskrit after about four thousand years of being memorized by one generation of priests after another. Until Gutenberg, if you wanted to know bible history or how to build a ship, you had to memorize it and even then you couldn't very well walk around with a fifty pound book.. or three. People, lots of people, remembered things. I sometimes wonder, if we lost all these high and low tech memory aids, if we'd revert to just remembering the important stuff.. like how to bake a cake for somebody's birthday rather than sending an e-card?

The picture here lives on our wall - a print by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo - who really got it right with the following:


  1. I'll see a film and people ask me the next day "what did you see" and honestly, I can't remember. It's embarrassing.

  2. That is so true! I feel like I have oldtimers already and I am only 32!

  3. Hey, your post, video and wall photo are an evening of entertainment! I've never seen the Devo flic's special.

    Yeah, we seem forced to remember a lot of basically useless things. We also get bombarded day and night with information and live with constant stress. That's gotta sting the memory.

  4. I was going to say something clever, but I forgot what it was.

  5. Passwords and pins will be the death of me!

  6. Sera and Kelly, I think it's true that although we imagine our brains are set up like storehouses, remembering itself is actually a creative act, and we only remember what's relevant. We can recall great moments, books, movies, all sorts of stuff really, but it all becomes part of how we express ourselves. One day, Sera, if you need to, you'll remember the movie.

    Gary, Bombarded is true even w/o the tv. Whip it, whip it good.

    Fairlane, who? Have we met?

    Mary, At work I just keep the damn things on my rolodex and cross out the old one prn. Works for me.. :-)