“It was raining heavily. I looked out over the railing of the 3rd floor. The ground, usually uneven with sand, was glossy with ripples from raindrops falling on it. The other kids and I shuffled to the lower floors and were made to go to the back door out of school at the end of the ground floor corridor. I was excited to go home early and happy to see my mother waiting for me. We were half submerged as we made our way out of the main gate. It was like wading through a swimming pool.”
I was in 3rd grade and this my memory of the rains so heavy that the streets around the area in my city were water logged. I marveled at my mind's ability to recollect this incident that happened years ago with a certain clarity and yet, struggle with events of recent past. I wondered at how my brain chose to store the former and not the latter.
It is the case that memories associated with strong emotions are better retained. The ones that the mind deems inconsequential are forgotten. Our mind has limited space and the brain has to make a choice every night to consolidate short-term memories to long-term (synaptic pruning). This helps the brain maintain efficiency and focus on more relevant information.
Then there is the age factor. As time goes by our memories seem harder to hold on making it seem that we are undergoing a “cognitive decline” as we age. However, this is an unavoidable consequence of the amount of information & experiences we collect and the ones that are the victim of the pruning.
“Regardless of whatever other challenges aging brings, older brains— which must manage a greater store of memories— are literally solving harder computational problems with every passing day.”
~ Algorithms to Live By
I have found a way of extending my memory and organizing my knowledge through good sleep, meditation and the process of writing. With words, I can freeze time and jot down key events as markers. These markers serve as a means of recollecting, kind of like a call number, which can help quickly locate a book (memory) in the library (the mind).
The ability to recall information is an indicator how much we know, and the rarity of memory lapses is a sign of how well we have arranged it all (in mind or on paper), making sure that the most important details are easily accessible.
For memory's sake, meditate, write, and sleep well.
Until the next owl delivery,
P.S. There are other ways memories extend. Photos, videos, places, music, smells, taste. Let me know which means works for you.