Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Remembering and Forgetting

I’m a sucker for odd facts in bite-sized pieces.

I just read that a chorus of fireflies can say everything they have to say by flashing in unison, sort of like the Mormon Tabernacle choir.

Recently I learned there is 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 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 five presidents were born within six weeks of each other, Clinton, Bush and Trump, in the summer of 1946. Perhaps Mercury was in retrograde. Or nuclear 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, inciting 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 / credit 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.

Ninety years ago, they may have been bursting with news 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 brain. It may become vestigial and slough off. All that’s left for us is to never forget our pin and passwords. The rest is stored in perpetuity.

It should give me comfort as I drive into my dotage. The rearview mirror 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 once knew the answer to this but I forgot. Etched in my gray matter are the names of everyone in FDR's wartime cabinet, the roster of radio programs on Sunday night and about a dozen names of candy bars from eighty years ago. I'm not sure whether this sort of remembrance is a virtue or an affliction. Gladly would I dump it all overboard.

Memory is a randomly selective muscle. During the Bush presidency a friend fell from his bike, splattered on the street when the paramedics came. To check his cognitive function, they asked him who the President was 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 be glad to 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 that ultimate mystery but it just slipped away.



  1. I enjoyed reading this Norm. I hope you are doing well.

  2. Love your observations! And what do 70% use if not toilet paper?

  3. Thanks, I manage to keep myself occupied while staying close to home and away from those 70%