Memories–they’re not real. They are constructions. But they’re all we have to make us conscious beings with continuous lives.
Whatever happens in your life, if you don’t write it down, with time, date, and place, you may fabricate associations to support the experiences you know you had, because those facts tend to slip away as you grow older.
It is a shock for me when I realize that I have relocated an experience to another place and time. I still know that it happened, and it seems to fit where I think I was at the time, but the arithmetic shows me that I couldn’t have been there at that time with those people.
I recall that when I moved to Palestine, TX, I insisted on calling a certain street “S. 10th St.” and it did not even run in that direction. The association was much older than the 2 years spent in the geographic area where I lived just prior to the move, but it was one that was comfortable and familiar, at the time. Later, when I actually drove my car on the real S. 10th St., it was not quite so comfortable and familiar, because the business district had grown tremendously.
What about people with “eidetic” or “photographic” memory? This only refers to images of what the person has seen or read, and perhaps to sounds that they have heard, and the stored memory of textures, odors, and flavors. Pages of printed words or symbols can be verified, but what we experience with our senses is highly subjective and always in a personal context. So we do not remember facts, but experiences.
To “recall” means to call [forth or back], to command a bit of information to appear from where it is “filed” in the brain. Conversely, to “remember” is to pull together an event or story.
On a computer, if you have a keyword, you can search Internet sites for articles, definitions, or places associated with that word. But that information comes from the outside world. Searching your brain with a “keyword” will bring up many of your own associations until you find the one you want. But if you are trying to recall a word, or the name of a thing, you may have to consult a Thesaurus, dictionary, or encyclopedia–or ask someone else.
If you forget someone’s name, you may have to ask him! Nouns and proper nouns are the first things to go as we get older. Everyone experiences it, no matter what devices he uses as reminders. I have often wondered why this should be. Why do we not forget pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and exclamations? This is a real mystery to me!