I already think my fascination with memory and the past consumes too much of my writing… yet i’m returning to these thoughts in black-out poetry:
Memories belong to us, yet our understanding of them are filtered through so many lenses. Our mood, what surprises us, what our senses suggest is worthy of attention, and the effect of language in that moment of the past are just a few of the lenses that shape memory.
Plus, every time a memory is recalled, it changes.
Attempts to recall a memory not only uncontrollably change it, but affect connected/ similar memories. This is exemplified in the study mentioned in The New Yorker’s post.
What Dunsmoor, Phelps, and Davachi found came as a surprise: it wasn’t just the memory of the “emotional” images (those paired with shocks) that received a boost. It was also the memory of all similar images—even those that had been presented in the beginning. That is, if you were shocked when you saw animals, your memory of the earlier animals was also enhanced. And, more important, the effect only emerged after six or twenty-four hours: the memory needed time to consolidate.
In this context, the saying “connecting the dots” make sense. All the pieces of information previously unattended are highlighted and reinforced when tied to importance.
Apparently our confidence in memory, unless in regards to the central event, is often misplaced. In writing about the past and memory, we are more accurately writing about our present focus, present emotions, and specific connections in the present as we attempt to re-encounter the past.
The reflective exercise of creative writing says more about our approach/ attitude towards memory in the present than the memory itself. Thus, frankly, I don’t know why I worry writing about the past when my writing is the time capsule for the present.