The Myth of Memory

What is it about memory? Why is it I can recall some things with absolute clarity while others, no matter the effort, flee from my mind the moment after they enter?

Sitting at my writer’s desk, working on my latest project, I tried to recall a great idea I had for the story. Normally I write these things down because of this trick of memory. However, in this case, I did not. It was brilliant, it was creative, it was wonderfully imaginative, and it was gone.

Hoping to revive the dormant brain cells, I decided to change the mood and put on some music. I usually write to soft classical or new age music, but in this case, I decided on something more upbeat.

I chose Chicago’s first album. As soon as the first song, called Introduction, began, I instantly recalled all of it. A little background here. Way back in 1974 some friends and I put together a band. (Someday I am going to buy an old police car, round up my old friends, and announce “We’re putting the band back together!” but I digress.)

Anyway, one of the places we performed was for the Lincoln High Senior Talent Show (most of the band went to Lincoln but they had to bring in my Cumberland High virtuoso guitar talents to round out the group.)

We played the Chicago song, Introduction. As the song now plays on my computer, I recall every beat, chord change, brass solo, percussion background, bass line, and lyrics. Forever fixed in my mind.

Why? None of us ever made it to the Grammies. While the others were talented musicians (now that I think of it, I may have been selected because my family had a station wagon that could carry the equipment) no one pursued a musical career.

Yet I recall every note from that night more than 40 years ago. Nevertheless, try as I might, I could not recall the idea I had just yesterday.

Memory is a fickle thing.

It changes things as suits it, locks some things in, and tosses others away.

Our memories are made of the important, the unimportant, the poignant, the bittersweet, the happy, the sad, those that bring smiles, and those that bring tears.

We try to hold onto them, but some things are outside our control. Memory is like a myth we hold onto no matter how much it lets us down.

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