Known Johnson

March 3, 2008

Shell game

Filed under: General — Tom @ 3:14 pm

Memory is a strange, worrisome thing. It can be vivid if you manage to keep it fresh, but it decays over time. Just now, for some weird reason, this old commercial popped into my head. I don’t know what the product was – it was something learning-related – I just remember these kids on a beach, digging in the sand, and one kid exclaims, “Look it’s a ______ shell!” Where _____ is should be a word that I cannot remember. My brain fills in “arthropodis” but I looked it up – it doesn’t exist, the closest thing being “arthropod,” and that’s not it. I just remember it being one of those strange things from my childhood that, as I do today, I would randomly throw out in conversation, much like I do with “This was not a boat accident,” or, “This means something.”

Isn’t it a bit scary that things just start to disappear from our brains, as if we have to do away with some things in order to make room for new information? The scary thing is, that’s not true – there’s that dude who remembers every single thing that he experienced, as fresh and clear as if it happened yesterday. But for those of us like me, where does it go? Is it just a part of aging? Or is it just that, because it had no relevance to anything else, bits and pieces of it are disconnecting from anything else that held it to other memories? I can’t deny that a part of me, that little hypochondriac in me that mentally Googles every ailment, yells out “Alzheimers!”

But, in some ways, maybe it’s better to be this way. Think about that guy, above, who can remember everything. He can never, ever, simply say “I don’t remember.” That’s just about the best excuse in the world. I don’t think most people can handle the kind of responsibility that permanent memory demands. Maybe we’re better off being forgetful. I just wish I could remember what that damned shell was in that commercial.

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