Where Have All Our Memories Gone?

A casual request from my son…

Magnetic Core Memory
Mainframe Magnetic Core Memory

“I need a picture of Grandpa.” Hmmm… I’ll look around. He passed nearly 13 years ago, so there are no currently random photo. They’re in a file folder, picture album, or on some scanned disk file. Finally, a wedding album, and an Alaska photo album found several photo’s that worked for him. You can find the photo’s and a sweet memory blog from my son by clicking here.

This made me think about memory, how it works and how we recall information from the storage device. Our brain. Computerized memory. The image is a magnification of “core memory” represented from my mainframe days. It is an amazing physical, electrical and magnetic power at work allowing a computer to store things.

As I was searching and researching, a song popped into my mind… Remember this one?

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Young girls have picked them everyone.
Oh, when will they ever learn?
Oh, when will they ever learn?

Peter, Paul and Mary sang this ballad, but it was written by Pete Seeger. Those good ol’ flowers, picked by young girls, who have gone on onto husbands. Where did those husbands go? To war. Where are all those soldiers? In graves, and then gone to flowers. Only to start the cycle again with flowers being picked by young girls.

Where do all our memories go? Are our memories simply in a cycle of living and dying, only to be reborn at a new time?

Photo’s are a good way to trigger a memory. I can pick up my high school yearbook and recall so much about the time period, and, since I was a photographer I’ve noted the ones I’m responsible for being in the book. Double memory!

Smells produce deep memories. Certain odors take us to the kitchen of golden years, and others remind us of work places, or drives to the country that inevitably went by some oiled tar pits with a fragrant smell! My family seemed to detest the smell, but it seemed as sweet as fresh baked bread pudding from grandma’s ovens!

Sounds, and especially certain melodies, can recycle our minds to a particular time. There was a song from the 70’s that was making the popularity rounds and it took me forever to find it… Hurricane Smith… Oh Babe What Would You Say… I can name an event, time period, and reason for the trip. It’s amazing the connection of melodies to our memory synapses.

Deja vu! Have you been somewhere only to realize you remember being at the same place in the past, but are unable to recall the event?

Some years back I read a scientific study about memories. Every time you recall something, you save it with updated references. Colors are sharper. Sounds are more specific. Tastes are more accurate. Conversations … well, let’s just say you start adding things to your memory for the next time they are recalled. Each time we remember it in the future it will be a composite of the original event, along with impressions added from other times of recall.

Something equally experienced is not equally recalled…even by a lare group of people! My wife and I are often amazed how each of us recall things differently, or not even at all. Where did that memory go to? Could it be that the right trigger has not been utilized to force a recall, or could it be that there is a capacity of things we can store in our memory banks? Could it be that there are things we simply do not write to our memory banks for reasons unstated? Painful events. Embarrassing moments. Lies. Conscious decisions to never remember?

“Memories are the key not to the past, but to the future.” ~Corrie Ten Boom

This is my thought. Our memories are valuable tools for future use. It’s the memory, and not just knowledge, that a fire burns and even a small coal will blister your finger. That’s what keeps me from walking barefoot around a fire! It’s that memory of a youthful time that triggers in me a response to recreate in the future. Just like my son asking for a photo of a special person, I can see that memory triggering something inside of him to be more like that person than he may have thought of before.

This is true for everyone of us! Our speech takes on patterns from someone we favor. My wife says my preaching is more like Pastor Brett Jones than any other voice that preached to me through the years. He had a deep impact on both of us! We have made conscious decisions about certain things that come from those 7 years with him. Even those deep years under Pastor James Kilgore pale in comparison… Just saying.

What happens to us in our past prepares us for the future! Those negative things do help us know how to better react when the opportunity comes to making a mistake again. Watch an animal who gets burned by an electric fence, and you will see they learn how to stop just before they touch it the second time!

What happens in our past can be forgiven and forgotten, especially by the one who has the power to forgive and forget!

But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 10:15-17, NKJV)

If God can forget and remember our misdeeds, then why can’t we? This is a good question… Think about it. You see someone, or their name pops into your memory, and you immediately remember the negatives, and maybe not much of the good. But think about it long enough and you will remember the good, along with the bad.

There are memories we need to practice recalling, and relishing… All the while, there are memories we definitely need to forget… I’m still working on this!