”…there are other worlds to sing in.”
On days when the world just gets too much to bear I play a mental game. I sit and I think back on the person I have been and the journey (and choices) that have taken me to where I am, here. Now. Because I know well just how unreliable human memory really is (https://goo.gl/1skcpc
) I focus on the ones where the emotional connection was so strong that the events remain crystal clear. Moments in which I can hear other people’s tone of voice like it was yesterday. Remember what I felt where I stood. See the color of the sky and recall the smells of my surroundings. Those moments and those events are always of other people and they always involve connecting with them, in some way.
In the quantum universe of my mind (https://goo.gl/ys095V
) I know the risks involved in recalling the past (https://goo.gl/QxPO8A
), each memory can be possibly subtly altered or even erased to fit a new narrative. This makes me all the more cautious, methodical and it makes the moments I do bring up all the more precious. Rare.
If our memories are constantly being rewritten (https://goo.gl/7OA1So
) and who we are is a product of what we can recall (https://goo.gl/fWWrfu
) what we then become is the result of what we have learnt and what we can remember: https://goo.gl/hkFqu0
. In the 1987 classic Robocop
helmer, Paul Verhoeven (https://goo.gl/FVsRtF
) deftly and seemingly so easily encodes the empathy that the FX superior but empty shell of a movie 2014 remake (https://goo.gl/K9o26V
) totally lacked, with a scene where the recently awakened Cyborg, Murphy, recalls the feeling of his missing family and lost humanity but can no longer recall their erased memory (https://goo.gl/UTNyFA
And that’s just the point. Emotion helps anchor memory (https://goo.gl/SGuXq2
), memory then shapes identity in a binary component of recall and ownership (a.k.a. personal feeling) - https://goo.gl/6P70VB
. Our most vivid memories make us who we are: https://goo.gl/RVPvpf
. A person may be defined by his actions, not his memories as Kuato (https://goo.gl/pXh6sp
) so famously says (https://goo.gl/fAepke
) in that other Verhoeven 1990 classic, Total Recall
) which, again, blows the remake (https://goo.gl/66fT8
) out of the water (https://goo.gl/beUB8a
) but it’s the recall of those memories that determines our actions.
Daniel Kahneman goes one step further linking memory and experience, the gap between the two and the narrative that ensues, with happiness: https://goo.gl/0miu1E
. Memory does more than this, of course. It takes some very specialized hardware inside our heads (neurons) which interconnect and perform a complex, synchronized electrochemical dance so that we know where, physically, we are in the world: https://goo.gl/eNXaOr
. A brain connecting disconnected neurons is one that is misfiring, forgetting not just where it is in the world, but also where we are.
In a way, disconnected memories have the same effect upon our sense of identity. Lacking an internal map (or recipe) of where to fit them and how, we lose sight of what it is that we actually are. As Julian Baggini says it is the narrative and the interconnection, the connectivity if you like, which actually creates the emergence of us: https://goo.gl/EFOSNX
Connectivity, whether in the neural sense or a more physical manifestation as in this case of a ‘simple’ phone mast in a remote African village: https://goo.gl/NMsFYI
is always transformative. It allows layers of meta data to emerge. Fresh classifications that redefine the world we see because we can better understand the context of what we see and judge its relevance.
Connectivity then is what adds content, context, narrative, meaning and a sense of self. It makes the brain happen (https://goo.gl/M00Eh4
) as James Gleick suggests in The Information
). It also makes life itself happen as Paul Villard’s devastatingly touching story shows: https://goo.gl/C9ZqNK
. Connectivity, whether between people or neurons, nations or tribes, nodes in a network or atoms in a matrix, requires the same thing. In chemical engineering we call it affinity. In a social context we call it kindness.
On that note I hope you are in the right physical context. Your brain knows where the percolator is and you have mapped the locations of the cookies, chocolate donuts, croissants and chocolate cake you need to make this day feel special. Have an awesome Sunday, wherever you are.