Letters to God – Part 10: Memories

source: http://mashable.com/2013/04/02/obama-brain/
source: http://mashable.com/2013/04/02/obama-brain/

These weeks are weeks of memories. First with Pesach, where we remember how we left Egypt. Then the Holocaust remembrance day, where we remember the atrocities that happened during WW2, both what was done to the Jewish people, and for all others that perished for nothing during this time. And this week we remember all of the fallen for the creation of Israel, and those that keep dying so that we can keep on living here.

And because my son keeps forgetting, I have been thinking a lot about memories. You know, since “the incident” back in February, my son’s memory is not working “properly”. He remembers everything before that day, but from that day on, things get blurred. Most times he doesn’t remember the name of the rehab center we are at, not to say the name of the people who are treating him each day (but here I have to say that it is also hard for me to remember their names, because there are many of them, so this may be something normal :-)).

As far as I know, the mechanism of how memories are created in our heads, and how they are retrieved when needed, is one great question mark for us. Our brain is a big mass of cells of many types and we have very little knowledge of how they work and interact (there have been many advances, but we are just starting). And as a friend of mine said, it is a very good question if using the brain we will be able to understand it. Similar (for me) to the what Goedel showed in his incompleteness theorem, where every axiomatic system contains statements that can never be either demonstrated or refuted (put in laymen terms).

But going back to memories, there is a very interesting mechanism going on here. From my personal experience, memories are something we create as a mirror of the world we are living in. But not a perfect mirror. We modify our memories to match our dreams, our hopes, our life. I sometimes remember things one way, the way I wanted them to be, but in reality something different happened. Not so different to make for my mind not to accept the changes, but slightly different. And I unconsciously make these changes so that I remember things as I wanted them to be. Because that is how I am wired.

And back to my son, I am not sure how much of his memories are simply being suppressed because they are unpleasant, and how much because of his injuries. In his place, I would also love to forget most of what has happened in the last two and a half months. I also have many memories that I would like to forget. Because they hurt. Because they are unpleasant. But we have no control on what we remember and what we forget. We only get the final results.

And on the other side of the spectrum, there are things that we forget and we would like to remember. Like that first kiss with our loved one, or the day our kids were born (I have vague memories of these… too traumatic I guess :-)). And there are things that we must remember, like leaving Egypt, like the Holocaust, like the fallen for our country. We must remember even though our mind would like to forget.