By Kevin Brown | BioRecently I was speaking with a friend about his bright four-year-old son. During the conversation, my friend noted how he was amazed at the ability of his son to recall events and details that had occurred many months prior. He marveled that his son could so easily and effortlessly recall information that for most adults would have long since been forgotten. Upon hearing his comments, I rather jokingly gave my normal response when confronted with similar comments about smart children with great memory. “It’s not that children have such great memory, they just have not experienced enough of life to have the mass of information stored in their brains that adults do!” I was clinging to my story that adults would have a similar ability to recall distant facts if their brains were not so cluttered with information built up over the course of their lives. Children, I was thinking, have a vast majority of their brains cells empty, just waiting to be filled. I like to think of memory in the context of a hard drive on a computer. When the hard drive is new, there is seemingly an infinite amount of space to store information. However, once it is full (assuming you don’t buy additional memory), you just have to delete some information to make room for new information. Simplistic, I am sure, but you get the point. Adults it seems, just have too much information they have amassed and therefore it gets challenging to recall bits of information stored somewhere in our memory bank. Now, as I sit at my computer I am looking back on my own childhood playing in my backyard. I can recall how every little thing held my attention. It did not seem to matter whether it was toys in my pool, the playfulness of my cat, or the homing pigeons above the neighbor’s garage. And in the evenings when my parents had friends or relatives over to our home, you would find me right in the middle of the room clinging to every word that was being said and observing the goings on during the evening with keen interest. I had an unquenchable curiosity about everything. Every event, every bit of information, every experience was all so new and each one held my undivided attention. It seemed I too could instantly recall information and experiences that had occurred months, sometimes years, earlier. And now, well, I like many other adults am challenged to recall the name of someone I met just minutes earlier at a party. What gives? Could it be that perhaps the challenge for adults in recalling names, portions of discussion, and other such information is that there is just too much noise occurring in our listening? Might that noise in fact be generated by that silent voice in our heads that just seems to have an opinion, a judgment, an assessment, or some other errant thought right in the middle of every moment we experience? “What silent voice?”, you ask as you read this. Well, the one that is busy judging the article so far. The one that is recalling your childhood as you read this article! What if we could just remove that noise and be truly present in every conversation, in every experience of life? Is it possible that we might find when we enter into conversations or into new experiences in life that without that internal noise, we seem to be fully present and, as a result, take in and process more information so that we can recall that information with relative ease? That has been my experience of late. It just seems that when I enter into conversations with an intention to be fully present, I seem to hear everything that is being said and my interactions with people are richer for it. Perhaps not surprisingly, my ability to recall information from those conversations and previous experiences is much more successful. It may be that the only difference between the ability of children and adults to recall information is that children are naturally present in the moment with an intense curiosity about everything of life. As adults, we must put aside our inner voices that tells us, “Been there, done and heard that!” Let us consider that every new moment is just that … a new moment in our precious life and fully worthy of our complete attention and interest. © 2009 Kevin Brown. All rights reserved.
Doing 20 minutes a day of mild exercise (like walking, swimming or dancing) can help counter slight memory loss and improve your fluency. Recent research in people over 50 also suggests that the benefits of this small amount of daily exercise can last from 12 to 18 months and may even help those who are at risk for Alzheimers (those who exhibit mild cognitive decline). Being active not only improves blood flow to the brain, but it also relieves stress and enhances mood.
I was speaking with a friend recently about age in general, how we ‘remember’ our lives and the power of memories to affect our day-to-day experience. From one perspective, I think that living in the present is the point of living—experientially at least. When we are present, our memories are just memories and don’t affect us either positively or negatively. Our memories are our ‘story’, and we can relate to our past as just that—a story. On the other hand, our moods and our memories
We’ve all heard that exercise is good for the body. Now current research is demonstrating that an active lifestyle contributes positively to the functioning of our brains as we grow older.
Waneen Spirduso’s book Exercise and Its Mediating Effects on Cognition outlines
the latest perspectives from
Memory is an interesting and strange phenomenon. I think (as most of us do) that what I remember is more or less what happened. This came home to me a number of years ago when I was dating a woman I had dated twenty years previously and whom I had not seen in the intervening period. We ‘connected’ like old friends and more or less fell into the kind of comfortable conversation that old friends do. As we began to recall our earlier relationship (which was pretty intense and lasted for more
By Stu Whitley
This is the fourth post in a four-part series.It may be that memory is the Well of Wisdom: this idea is central to Celtic mythology. In Celtic lore, the well is situated at the centre of the Otherworld, the spiritual source, the land of the dead. Where it gushes up, pilgrims drink from it using a skull as a vessel, thereby creating a direct link with the dead. At the well of Llandeilo in Dyfed, Wales, this practice continued into the twentieth century. The skull was said to be that of St. Teilo, the ruins of whose church loomed over the well itself. The voices of the wells, usually feminine, were released in dreams. Keepers of the wells were considered to be oracles, dispensing analyses of past conduct, future guidance and even the whereabouts of lost objects. The image of a well as memory seems apt: if we had the capacity to let down our bucket sufficiently deeply, what universal truths might we find? I think it’s arguable whether we have enough rope on the well’s spool. The intuitive proof of this lies in the toss of the coin accompanied by a wish that, at one time or another, has gripped the imagination of all of us: the wisdom of sacred water. I sit silently beside a dark well so deepthe splash of tokens echoes faintlylike distant, mocking laughtereach arcing coin that tumbles undercarries a wish for, what? serenity?
I wrote of the ‘editorial memory’. By that, I mean the mind’s capacity
to organize thoughts into their essential message, to synopsise, cull,
re-frame or otherwise adjust what we have heard or experienced so that
we can cope with it, or at least participate in the filing of
particular things. This is not always helpful: after all, we may be
contumaciously dismissive of something that turns out to be quite
By Stu Whitley
This is the third post in a four-part series.What may be demonstrated as a biological truth is intuitively understood as we grow older. We become less egocentric, more aware that the world has many centres of the universe besides our own, and that in some mysterious way, these centres are all linked. In the mature adult, we recognize as poets have before us, that we are round people on a round earth, cognizant of being interwoven in a circular web of connection with all human beings, which is among other things to understand interdependency, forgiveness and the nature of healing. Hugo wrote: “We are never done with conscience. Choose your course by it…it is bottomless, being God.” And what is conscience if not memory? Memory, that is, linked to consequences. No one can divine the future with any exactitude. Yet we are capable of discerning the truths that help guide us to it; I believe that those truths are at least in part found in our collective memory.
the other hand, I am dismayed by the thought that the lessons I think
I’ve already learned, and learned well, must incessantly be
reconsidered and learned yet again, as if unremembered. All my life so
far, particularly as one who is trained and experienced in the
machinery of the law, I have understood the need to hew to certainty
and precision. It has been expected of me, if for no other
By Stu Whitley
This is the second post in a four-part series.Poetry is sometimes the casualty of an age where rational clarity is considered supreme. If the message of the poet is not apparent at the first go, chuck the damn thing. This, of course, ignores the obvious reality that to try and capture all that reposes within our innermost thoughts on a particular matter may not be easily condensed and dispensed as received wisdom. I think our ability to speak clearly on important things is seriously exaggerated. Kant observed that there’s no great art in being generally comprehensible if one renounces insight. He thought that the result was a bunch of patched up observations and half-reasoned principles, which he considered to be the enjoyment of “shallowpates” in “everyday chitchat”. Jacques Maritain wrote in Creative Intuition in Art & Poetry: The law of intelligible clarity imposed by the classical tradition has…been an occasion for innumerable mediocre poems…
If this is true of poetry, which is the most economical form of condensing expressed thought, it is even truer of memory.
don’t know much about the magic of memory. We know even less about its
physiology. Our brains endlessly trawl our experiences and randomly
snatch up words and images by some sort of neurological sleight of
hand, tucking them in the sleeve for future reference. How those
By Stu Whitley
I’ve been thinking lately about the poetry I write; the poetry I write for you
while joyful, is more than chirrup (I hope), with only a touch of elegy
more, it tries to plumb the mystery of apperception, and
the discernment of the uncommon qualities in the common things
that mark our quotidian ways: an arm-linked walk
a mug of hot tea at day’s end—these are the liturgies that shore
what always needs reinforcing; love cannot survive unilaterally
what stays in the mind’s
In loving memory of my mother, Ruth Selman (1920-2007), who passed away this morning at 11:20 am.I am distracted by thoughts of dying, My actions blown away on wasted winds of imagination and thoughts I cannot think or speak.
I celebrate tomorrow and yearn for yesterdays,The weakness of a restless soul longing for realities unlived and lost forever in the desert of forgotten dreams.
I am longing to disappear in a transcendent moment,Able to relate in a comforting embrace and forget the lost moments of unexperienced possibilities and unconsummated potential.
I am too many people in too many times,Filled with the pain of seeking what cannot be sought and hoping for resolution of unasked questions that have no answers.
I have circumnavigated the Universe eight times and seven,Being both lighthearted and a dark cloud without reason, knowing only that I AM and always will be searching, without sleep or time to rest.
I am movement itself, without form or fashion, direction or goal,Forever trapped in this prison of time and space, physical without form and spiritual without Being or power beyond myself.
I am beyond mere words—a silence embracing the absence of sound.Rebirth isn’t possible when we cannot die or find an ending to the process we began so long ago—before we knew the cost of time.
I am Yesterday, Tomorrow and Forever, surrounding both life and death,Now cannot be me, but it is all there is, and therefore I am not and never was—until someone finds me waiting for them for all eternity.