Memory is a strange phenomenon – the pensieve

The Pensieve


Memory is a strange phenomenon;  normally when memory is discussed it is treated as a trap for experiences or ideas with an off on switch – he remembers, he does not remember; she has a good memory, she does not have a good memory; I remember exactly what you said, I don’t remember that at all.  My experience with memory has taught me that memory is not like that – it is not easy to define or quantify and lately that has been made painfully clear to me.  A few years ago a friend and I were discussing the casino business, I was relating an idea that I had; I thought the idea was nothing short of brilliant, so did my friend, but for a very different reason. The difference  in our thinking was rooted in our memories.

The conversation took place about 10 years ago and so I don’t remember all of the details.  But I was describing to my friend what I thought was a guaranteed model for success in the casino business; it dealt with professional wrestling.  I opined that professional wrestling, like stock car racing or country music, had a huge loyal fan base that could be exploited.  If one could build a casino around that theme and sell all of the gear, memorabilia and such that loyal fans buy; the casino would have regular professional matches and in the times when there were no matches have wrestlers walking around talking to me people; it was certain to succeed.  All of the wrestling fans in the country would come at least a couple of times a year.  If the casino had a descent location – we were talking about Las Vegas, so a Strip location was necessary center Strip would be best.   Then the casino would get its share of drop-in tourist customers and the icing on the cake would be the died-in-the-wool, hardcore wrestling fans.  A sure winner I declared.  My friend said, “but I told you all of that a couple of years ago and you thought it would never work!”  I was stunned, speechless in disbelief.  But he remember the time, place and most of the details of the conversation – after some prodding I started to recall that conversation.  Obviously,  I had remembered the conversation and most of the details, I had just conveniently deleted my friend from my memory and claimed the idea as my own.  Was I a thief, a plagiarizer, a dishonest and untrustworthy person?

Illustrating yet another aspect of my untrustworthy memory, a couple days ago I wrote a blog about Mr. Breivek, the Norwegian killer.. In my blog,  I bravely declared him and all the others like him, to be a criminal, not insane – but a criminal with no redeeming qualities.  He deserves to be punished I said; ” skin him alive, draw and quarter him, string him up by his thumbs, put him on the wrack and pull his body apart while he screams.  No pain was too much for such a criminal.”   And yet, just a short while before I had written two blogs detailing my empathy with the American solider in Afghanistan who “lost it” and killed dozens of Afghan citizens.  For him I could find many explanations and mitigating factors – war, the constant anxiety, martial tensions, the ubiquitous electronic communication systems – I did not hint he may have been sexually abused and battered as a child – but I was not far from it.  I could identify with him, I could understand why he might have done what he did and I certainly did not think he should be tortured or executed.

What happened to my memory between those blogs?  Did I forget what I had written previously?  No, I had not forgotten, but I did not see any connection between them when I wrote about Norway.  How is that possible?  Memory is a strange phenomenon, it is not a linear process, our brain stores different piece of things in different places and under very different labels.  Right-winged fanatic and weary war veteran are not filed together – even my justice file has many separate compartments; international justice, moral justice and justice for terrorists does not contain the same data bits as military justice, national justice or justice for national heroes.  Today in light of some new information, I have been thinking about the Korean man who most recently went on a rampage.  I have a dilemma – what really happened? – he says he doesn’t remember much and he apparently is in great pain and agony for what he did. Is he a criminal, a victim of stress and anxiety or simply a nut-case?

How, given my two conflicting views on the subject can I fit him into my world-view of crime and justice? Does this mean I am a dishonest thinker, a person of weak moral character or possibly a bigot?  I don’t think so, but it does mean I don’t think quite as clearly as I would like to believe I do and it does mean my memory is flawed at best, a biased data base wherein the data is sorted to my advantage.  Please don’t judge me too harshly, but feel free to point out that I often miss some key counter points in my arguments and that memory has some leaks in it.


2 Responses to “Memory is a strange phenomenon – the pensieve”

  1. 1 CASINO Trackback on February 9, 2015 at 3:37 pm
  2. 2 Going Here Trackback on March 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

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