Thursday, November 03, 2011

Memory Z

A lot of strong memories were given their initial big bang coding by heightened emotion. So-called flashbulb memories are one type, and collective flashbulb memories find additional reinforcement through shared recollections. The JFK assassination for those old enough to remember. The MLK assassination. Landing on the Moon, walking on the Moon. The tail end of the US-Vietnam War. Watergate. Oil embargo. Iran Hostage Crisis. And on and on up to the rolling present.

Interest reinforces memory. During a year in grade school when living in St. Paul, Minnesota, in the fall of 1968, my school held a mock election, which got me interested in presidential elections. Vice President Hubert Horatio Humphrey, Jr., was closely associated with Minnesota, and most kids voted for him in our election. Most dissenters voted for Richard Milhous Nixon, with only a couple for George Wallace (kids orginally from Tennessee). No doubt most of us were voting the way our parents would in the real election. Humphrey won Minnesota but Nixon won at the national level. I remember every presidential election night since 1968.

Sports memory works in the same way, at least for the big series and the big wins of favorite teams. It's all about the intensity of interest fusing with emotional excitement/investment, taking purchase in our memory system.

Anything intense tends to persist somewhere in the "memory banks." Good when it's good, "post-traumatic" when it's traumatic.

For the quieter developments in life (and even for intense social connections maintained through time), artifacts like diaries, journals, receipts, photos, recordings, souvenirs, letters and postcards bring the times back: tokens of remembrance, objets de mémoire. They also help when the details of memories blur. How cool is that?

Today's Rune: The Mystery Rune.


Sidney said...

There's a great turning point in "Eternal." Quite a good show.

YogaforCynics said...

The first election I was aware of was Nixon/McGovern. I was the only, or maybe one of two kids in my class whose parents weren't Nixon supporters. It kinda let me know I was gonna be an outsider, I guess...

Charles Gramlich said...

Robert Kennedy's assassination is a flashbulb memory for me. First time I ever saw my father cry.