Friday, November 25, 2005


As researchers unravel the mystery of our brains, they have discovered the apex of a great number of bodily and emotional functions. They know where the brain’s hot-spots are that makes us shy, brave, secure, and content. They know where the command centers are for movement and sensory perception. And they know where memory lives. But despite all this, they have failed to zero in and investigate a complexity in that memory that is really quite phenomenal.

And because it is so phenomenal, I think it needs investigating. What I want to know is why I can’t remember what happened yesterday, where I put the peanut butter, or why I went downstairs. But I can remember every detail of something that is causing me stress or aggravation. In fact, try as I might, I can’t shelf it for even a minute.

Now this preamble is not stressful or aggravating. These thoughts are not observances that should make you anxious. That makes them slippery stuff to remember. But nevertheless, let’s try, if we can, to just hang on to these thoughts for a time while I ramble off on another tangent.

Now you’ve probably heard, as I so often have, of situations where amateur writers from out-of-the-way villages or farms have written profound and fascinating books. And with the revenue from that first book they pack up and leave the “homestead” to relocate in a sunny studio apartment in some bustling metropolis to crank out more of the same. But now they find there is nothing to stir them to write. In this new locale the magic is gone.

So what causes this ‘writer’s block’ to set in with the ferocity of a mid-winter storm? I think it is contentment. Nice apartment, enhanced social life, economic comfort, the smug satisfaction of success. These are all the catalysts that erase conviction and reflective intrigue. Contentment is what smashes and stomps on creativity.

So that thought leads to my current problem. It is the winter of my content. I am in the midst of what I value most – quietness, contentment, my knitting, my crocheting. My Christmas presents are all bought. Selected from a catalogue so I wouldn’t have to make the dreaded trip to town to wander about indecisively in malls and crowds until I could scream. The gifts have arrived and I am well pleased with all of them. The cost – more reasonable that I expected. I am also smug because I found a shortbread recipe with only three ingredients that takes ten minutes to make. And it is made with margarine, rather than butter, but even the most discriminating gourmet will never know. Yard is clean. Fall work all done. Weather is beautiful. House is warm and cozy. Computer – virus-free, it would seem. Tree is wrapped and decorated. All I have to do is bring it upstairs, unwrap it, and plug it in. So what’s to write? There’s nothing to write.

You see, in order for me to write there has to be something eating at me. A discontentment or uneasiness. Something that is provocative enough that I can remember it long enough to get it fleshed out on paper. Now in the end, what I write will not reveal any provocation. And that is deliberate on my part because I’d rather make your day then break your day.

But nevertheless, in the construction of each post, when I’m on the second paragraph, and already I have forgotten the first, and when the formula for plot has totally dissipated, I can still get back to my work because the initial provocation that prompted me to write is still there – not forgotten for one second. My forgetfulness might lead me to twist and twine it in a different direction but that doesn’t alter the fact that I am able to recall what initially prompted me to write.

So now, returning to my original thought – my original provocation. If researchers can unravel so many mysteries of the mind, why can’t they unravel the reasons memories of a provocation are as sticky as gum in one’s hair? And, at the same time, unravel the reasons why memories of incidents in the midst of contentment are as cling-free as under-the-bed-beasties dipped in Static-Guard?


Anonymous Clarence said...

Oh! I think the experts DO know the reason for short-term memory loss. The reason we don't know what they know is because they can't stir up enough interest in the subject to keep us focused long enough to explain it to us so that we can grasp the explanation and remember it.

4:42 AM  
Blogger Roberta said...

Very succinct comment, clarence. If you hadn't signed your name, I might have thought that Rumsfeld coined that thought.

And in addition to what you said, because researchers are as much a part of the human race as the rest of us, they probably can't stir up their own interest enough to remember what they set out to research.

10:11 AM  

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