Saturday, March 16, 2019

Our Remembering Brain

I’m a sucker for odd facts.

Today I leaned there’s no such bird as a seagull. They are just gulls. Just as sardines don’t really exist but can be herring or many other short fish under six inches. I don’t know what to do with this info.

I might try to casually work it into a conversation. I tried that the other day with another startling piece of presidential trivia. Namely, the fact that three of our last four POTUS were born within six weeks of each other, Clinton, Bush and Trump, in the summer of 1946. Perhaps Mercury was in retrograde. Or atomic bomb fallout was in the air.

Yesterday I read that the violin was saved from extinction by Catherine de Medici, Queen of France in the 16th century. The instrument was first deemed by the Church to be licentious, too screechy and for scandalous dancing. Maybe they felt its sound resembled the seagull which doesn’t exist.

Here’s another tidbit to drop at a cocktail party: ten million trees are felled annually just to manufacture toilet paper even though 70% of the world population does not use it. On second thought better save this for another occasion and try the violin material for the cocktail party if you want to get re-invited.

Blame the Internet for all this. Folks before the millennium didn’t have the cargo we have to sort out. Has it elasticized our brain or must we forget something to make room for each new fact? I wonder what Google has to say about that.

Eighty-five years ago they may have been bursting with news they heard on that newfangled wireless wonder called radio or perhaps from RKO Pathe News shown in movie theaters. What will they think of next, I ask you? 

Now, of course, we don’t need to spell, multiply or memorize anything. It’s all there waiting to feel the call of the click. I’m beginning to feel badly for my Remembering Brain. It may become vestigial and slough off. All that’s left for us is to never forget our Social Security number, pin and passwords. The rest is in the device for perpetuity.

It should give me comfort as I pass into my dotage but memory is all we have in the end. It has become our measure of sanity. A little wear at the edges is permissible but large holes in the short term are scary. 

And why do we remember what we do? I knew the answer to this but I forgot. Etched in my gray matter is the roster of the Brooklyn Dodgers team of 1941 but that won’t get me very far.
Nor will the names of everyone in FDR's wartime cabinet.

Memory is a randomly selective muscle. About fifteen years ago a friend fell from his bike, splattered on the street when the paramedics came. To check his cognitive function they asked him who was President and he said he didn't remember the name, only that he was an asshole.

If I could only un-remember Trump’s presidency I might live happily ever after. I’d even gladly delete all I just learned about gulls, sardines and violins and focus on the meaning of life. I swear I was on the verge of unlocking the mystery but it just slipped away.

1 comment:

  1. So Norm. I’m relaxing after a long and interesting day in Santa Fe and reading your blog. Now my brain is activated again just like last night when I was listening to Peggy read from her book and I lost the last half. I will try tomorrow to regain contact with her u tube But now I have to absorb that sardines, smelt and jarring may all be one species. That is interesting news for a “herring choker” like me. I didn’t know about the violin insight but I did know about gulls. As far as the meaning of life goes.....,,,,it hasn’t slipped away I’ve just never figured it out.