Memory is an acute thing. It can baptize you, take you over, reflect on where you’ve been and, in some extreme cases, incapacitate you. Memory can also warm, warn and welcome you — and this story is a matter of the latter in the name of one my earliest mentors and influencers, Rick Alloway. Yes is hard. No is easy. Rick Alloway was always a Yes Man in the most honorific possible way.
Rick gave me my start in radio at KFOR 1240 and KFRX 103 in Lincoln, Nebraska when I was 13-years-old, and he helped correct me, win me and convince me in every single way of the world. He was never harsh or cruel or condescending — even when you earned such treatment. His greatest talent was simply listening and being infinitely patient. In the radio advert below, Rick is in the front row wearing a mustache and I’m right next to him sporting the sun-sensitive hipster glasses.
We’ve written a lot about memory and meaning and memory on this Boles Blog over the last decade or so — and yet I am always a little bit shocked and surprised when I read elsewhere, on other blogs — revelations of how fleeting and failing memories really are in the execution of rallying a daily life.
The blog post in question was written by a fresh and successful database engineer who, at a young age, was mildly complaining, in the midst of a technical exposé, how his short-term memory was failing him. He was trying to draw parallels between caching database memory and how his mind would clear, on its own, important, stored information he needed for short-term recall.
The young designer shared with us that if he thought of something while in the midst of working, he had to immediately stop and write down the thought on a piece of paper, or in the next thought, he’d forget what he meant to do next when he had a break in time.
The author didn’t seem to be particularly alarmed by his lack of short-term memory reception, but I felt for him because his letter read as if this were a semi-new experience that he was dealing with in the analytical manner of a software designer and problem fixer. He was using mechanical logic to solve a scientific health problem.
The University of Notre Dame published an interesting study on “Event Boundaries” that cause the everyday each of us to lose track of who we are and what we were planning to do:
We’ve all experienced it: The frustration of entering a room and forgetting what we were going to do. Or get. Or find.
New research from University of Notre Dame Psychology Professor Gabriel Radvansky suggests that passing through doorways is the cause of these memory lapses.
“Entering or exiting through a doorway serves as an ‘event boundary’ in the mind, which separates episodes of activity and files them away,” Radvansky explains.
“Recalling the decision or activity that was made in a different room is difficult because it has been compartmentalized.”
The smell hung in the air so densely I felt like I could see it: a gray, sickly cloud that pervaded every hallway of the cheerily-named Sunnyside Manor. As I walked to the courtyard toward my Alzheimer’s-afflicted aunt, I couldn’t help the sense of dread building in my stomach. As she turned toward me, her eyes narrowed in confusion, then turned grimly polite.
As we descend deeper and deeper into The Uncanny Valley, we are left to wonder if we want those built to be like us, to be like us, or if we prefer them to look mechanical so we can more immediately identify not just what, but who, we are interacting with in our intimate lives.
A couple are visiting a family friend; one who stepped in to save the home of one of their parents after their eviction from a country where they had farmed for years, employing local people, feeding and educating local families and whose recovery from their loss of everything was then about to be lost again in their own countries’ revolution.
A word was given and later a simple legal paper signed, a house changed hands for nothing and was saved for their family, now many years later the time had come for that house to be sold.
They say that time heals — I beg to differ. It may cloud and diminish generalities, but on this day, every year, the pain is still the pain that only the gut wrenching sorrow that the loss of a child can bring. True that pain is confined to this day and this day alone and in spite of all my efforts and strategies over the years to cope with it, deal with it, or even try to ignore it altogether, I never quite manage to do so.