Art, Late Night Thoughts, Learning, Meaning, Memory, Psychology

Some Reflections in the Hour of Memories

Earlier, I saw the moon shining through my window curtains, but at this hour, the moon has set behind the mountains.  The town has grown quiet — almost still.  I can feel the cold of the deep night. In winter, this is the hour of memories.

I sometimes think memories are shaped by us a little bit like how I shaped that pencil drawing of Don and Becky I posted on this blog yesterday.

I first drew a preliminary sketch of the couple from a photograph.  After that, I took the sketch and taped it to a wall of my apartment where I could study it every now and then.  Over a month or two, I must have mentally rearranged it’s lines and shadows a thousand times.  And in the process of reducing the lines and shadows  to the minimum necessary to describe the image, I felt I was discovering the meaning of the image.  At least, it’s meaning to me.

Well, isn’t that process just a bit like what we sometimes go through with certain of our memories?  We have a fairly rich initial experience, and perhaps our first memory of that experience adequately reflects the richness of it.

But there is so much information in our experience that it can at times be hard to see what meaning there might be in it for us.  So we begin to winnow down the lines and shadows we see — that is, the details we recall — until we have in the end something that makes stark sense to us — but which contains nowhere near as much information as the original experience.

Yes, in the way we remember our experience, we have made sense of it, but we have given up a lot to make sense of it.  In the same way, if you were to see the original photo I sketched Don and Becky from, you would immediately notice how much more information it contains than the final drawing.  Yet, I believe the emotional impact — or in this case, the meaning — of the photo is much less than that of the drawing.

Outside, the winter’s wind is rising.  Perhaps in response to it, I can hear my upstair’s neighbor’s dog stirring in her sleep.  I wonder if other animals besides us don’t remember more than we do, but make less sense of what they remember?

4 thoughts on “Some Reflections in the Hour of Memories”

  1. That is true, the way we shape our memories, at least that is the way it is with me.
    It also seems that our immediate recall has more of our reaction to the event or person and as time passes we are more objective and see it more for what it was in itself.


  2. “I wonder if other animals besides us don’t remember more than we do, but make less sense of what they remember?”

    Animals remember more than we give them credit for.

    As for what sense they make out of it… heck, do *we* make that much sense out of what we remember? Human memories are significantly colored by the way we’d *like* things to have been, for good or not-so-good. Sometimes the differences are slight; sometimes they can be vast.

    Who can say that the sense animals make out of what they remember is any less?

    – M. \”/


  3. Good points, Meowlin! Although when I wrote about “making sense” out of memories, I did not mean to imply that the sense we made of them was necessarily true to reality. Sometimes the sense we make of our memories reflects a lack of realism, or is plainly false.


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