|u||And One More|
|u||A punishing complexity: resisting meditation|
|u||Hypnagogic hallucinations (T.K.)|
|u||Locus of the "I" in the brain (T.K.)|
The first of these struck me in August of 1989, while I was taking the long, curving Oregon Expressway freeway exit from 101 North in Mountain View, and launched me on the Zen path. The second took several more years. The third arrived by means of this website (needs Java plugin to run), and the fourth didn’t come until April of 2003, while I was attending a study session on Suzuki-roshi’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. Some things take a long time.
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|And One More|
|Once you lose your fear of wearing silver with gold, a lot of things become possible.|
|When our memories are fully understood, I think one of the things we
will know is that people’s memories are not all built on the same model:
they have different configurations and different ways of functioning. Like
trees of the same species, they may be made of the same stuff and have the same
basic requirements in order to survive and thrive, but they will find different
ways to get what they need, and their development will take different paths, depending
upon what conditions they encounter as they grow. One tree leans out over
a stream and another stands up straight. One branches differently from another.
One bears less fruit, and one divides into two main trunks. One takes a
lightning blast and bears the scar forever. |
I believe that people’s memories have different storage and retrieval systems, different capacities for retention, different degrees of redundancy, and different associative paths. I think voluntary and involuntary retrieval of memory are different experiences for different people, and I think there is only an imperfect correlation with intelligence. Memory is influenced by so many factors other than capacity, emotion being one of the major ones, that I would be unlikely to trust generalities about its relationships to other traits. I think most of the experience of not remembering something has to do with being unable to retrieve it, but sometimes the thing was simply not stored. Intelligence may have some correlation to ability to retrieve voluntarily, but I doubt that it is closely related to storage. Even voluntary retrieval, however, appears to be a different matter for different people, to judge by the methods several people may choose when attempting to recall the same event or fact.
I am not suggesting that there are as many different memory systems are there are people. I don’t subscribe to the notion that “there are as many (fill in the blank) as there are people” with respect to very many things. (For example, I think there very well may be a finite number of experiences of childbirth, recipes for spaghetti sauce, and ways of looking at a blackbird; a finite number of shapes of the human foot, for all practical purposes; a finite number of ways to read a poem or view a sunset or hear a symphony; and therefore there is going to be some duplication. All of medicine, education, and many other human practices depends on the assurance that there are certain commonalities and a certain predictability to human experience. It is only the Hallmark “everybody’s special” point of view and not observation or experience that makes us want to believe in such absolute global uniqueness.) I imagine that there may be a small number of distinct models. Since I know nothing about the subject, I’m willing to make a completely arbitrary guess and say there are four types of memory. I am personally acquainted with only one of them.
Better than trees, maybe, is an analogy to language: at birth all of us with normal speech faculties are capable of making all the sounds in all the spoken languages of humanity. As we master our mother tongue, we gradually lose the ability to form the phonetic elements that are not native to our own language, and if we attempt to learn them later, we may find it difficult or impossible. In a similar way, perhaps, the structure of our memories is formed by use, and, despite potential, the actual becomes limited by practice.
Therefore I do not believe that it will be possible to make a single master map of the memory or to make many very useful generalizations about it. But it may be possible to discern and analytically represent the structure of the four (if four) main types of memory systems, and perhaps subtypes as well.
And none of them, I think, will resemble a computer very much at all.
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|Where Are Your Keys? And Where Were They Thirty Years Ago?|
of the most amazing features of memory is its long-term and short-term locator
function. The inventory of things whose permanent and temporary locations
we can recall at any given time is truly phenomenal. We typically take it
for granted and pay it no attention most of the time; in fact, we may be aware
of it only when it falters and we mislay something. But it deserves to be
recognized on its own account. And so this is a tribute to our memory of
where things are in three-dimensional space and across time. |
To appreciate this marvel, consider: At any given moment, prompted or unprompted and possibly with very little effort, do you not remember such things as the following? Can you not identify the exact location of nearly all of these things?—and, of course, thousands upon millions of others that they stand for?
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|A Punishing Complexity: Resisting Meditation|
|Here are my notes on a talk I attended, given by a Zen master and including a guided meditation on two koans. And here are my reflections of that evening on my inability to escape the convolutions of my mind and simply follow the meditation.|