On Memory


Memory is such an odd thing. I’m talking about the stuff inside your head now, not the stuff inside your computer. It’s very odd the way that it functions. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what I ate for dinner each night this week. I spent much of last quarter learning how to do various math problems, and then forgot how to do them by the time I finished my homework. Three or four times, I forget which, I asked someone if they’d been to the Body Works exhibit at the Arizona Science Center, only to be told each time that said friend had seen it in London and that I’d asked the question before.

And yet there’s so many odd things I do remember. I remember things I should have no reason to remember, since it isn’t as if they make a difference in my life. The trivial, in a very real sense, sticks around where the important doesn’t. Commercial jingles, obscure facts about movies, odd little moments in history and, for some reason, the following song, which I haven’t heard since around 1979 and yet was stuck in my head all day today.

I clearly have a good memory for some things and a bad memory for others, and I really wish I had more control over what things remained in my head. I don’t really need “The Lonely N”, or various bits of Schoolhouse Rock songs going through my head. I don’t need to know when the battle of Agincourt was (1415, not that you asked, and you’ll forget it by the end of the day). Being able to name all the capitals of Europe is useful only in the unlikely event that someone comes up to me and says, “I need to know all the capitals of Europe! Quick, or the world will end!” Things I do need to know, like how to figure the slope of a line, are gone from my head within minutes of learning them.

I know that music tends to linger in the brain longer than most any other memory, which is why obscure commercial jingles from the 1970s and Sesame Street songs stick in my head like nobody’s business. I know that’s just how most people’s memory works. But it’s so irksome, so irritating.

Oh, well. There doesn’t seem to be much that I can do about it, so I guess I’ll just suck it up and spend the rest of the day with “Free to Be You and Me” kicking around in my head.

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