Friday, January 23, 2015

Robert Grudin: the mind's blind spot

III.3

In the same way that our eyes have blind spots in space, our minds have blind spots in time;  areas of time which we habitually or congenitally ignore.  My own blind spot is the recent past, the events of yesterday or last week.  I experience things quite fully in the present; but then they submerge, not to reappear until they are images on the flat wall of the past.  Why is this so?  Is there something uncomfortable, raw, undigested, embarrassing about the jumble of experience just behind me?  Is it ignored simply because it is too chaotic to make sense?  Look at the past day, the past hour:  their interruptions, frivolities, compromises, false startsWe may well have good reason to overlook the immediate past, for the immediate past holds the uncensored truth of the present.

I have trouble remembering in the evening what I did that morning or afternoon.  This is why I write things down that I want to remember in a small notebook that I carry with me, wherever I go.  I call it my non-volatile memory.  Even this isn't 100% perfect for sometimes I write so hastily that I can't read my writing (too many years in school taking notes).

At other times I don't put enough information down, so when I do finally stumble across the note, I wonder what it means and why I wrote it.  For example, I will come across a note--find and email the name of the author of such-and-such book.  Unfortunately I didn't write down the name of the person I was doing the research for.

I suspect we forget a lot that happens recently because we consider it trivial and don't really focus on it long enough to be retained in memory.   Something happens and then something else happens that pushes it out of our mind, and so it goes, until a significant event occurs, which remains with us long enough to be retained. 

Any thoughts?

Do you have any mental blind spots? 

14 comments:

  1. My memory is a rapidly deteriorating sieve that is becoming incapable of holding anything. Such is life.

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    1. R.T.,

      Take notes or carry a small tape recorder, if it gets really serious. Or remember the quotation attributed to Ingrid Bergman: Happiness is good health and a bad memory.

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  2. Hey Fred, have you watched Memento?

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    1. Di,

      Yes, but I will watch it again with, I hope, a better idea of what's really happening (if I remember!).

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    2. Okay. It just reminded me of it when I read the line about you writing things down in a notebook. Haha.

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    3. Di,

      Writing things down as I do reminds me of a novel by Gene Wolfe, _Soldier of the Mist_, about a Roman mercenary who fought for the Persians under Xerxes. He was cursed by a goddess for fighting in her temple. He forgot everything that happened during the day when he went to sleep. Consequently he would write down what happened that day, just before turning in, and read it the next morning.

      Sometimes I feel like him.

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    4. Oh you do?
      I'm too young to experience that. But I often have trouble remembering faces, and names. Sometimes someone smiles with me and I don't react, and it's only after days or even weeks do I recognise them. And sometimes I mix up 2 people that may not look that alike. Embarrassing.
      And I haven't reached the age when I can put the blame on my age. No excuse whatsoever.

      Delete
  3. Di,

    That sounds normal to me. Nature never succeeds in perfecting various systems, but close approximation and a reasonable functionality is the best we can hope for.

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    Replies
    1. I guess. That makes me feel a bit better.

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  4. Di,

    I have to keep reminding myself of that regularly, especially just after I've gotten up, walked to the other end of the house to get something, answered the phone which just started ringing,return to where I started from, and then have to go back because I forgot to get what I came out for.

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    Replies
    1. That's happened to me! And very often, I'm saying something, or intending to, and get interrupted by someone or some sound, and then I forget what I've been intending to say. Hahaha.

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  5. Di,

    Distraction--the bane of the human mind.

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  6. And the older you get, Fred, the worse it becomes.But it always helps to know that you're not the only one undergoing these daily mind lurches. If it's something I MUST remember - I MUST write it down. No question. I can't tell you how many tea kettles I've burned on the kitchen stove (and had to replace) just from simply forgetting that I'm boiling water in the kitchen while I'm doing something else. Yes, I've stopped doing that. I think. :)

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  7. Yvette,

    I would fill up a small pan with water and turn the gas on for tea. Later I would come back and find the water gone and would have to start over again.

    Then, while in a grocery store, I discovered a whistling tea pot. It is shrill, it carries through the entire house, and it continues until I do something about it. The cat doesn't like it at all and will leave the kitchen if she's in there when it goes off and complains when I show up.

    So, I have solved that problem. Now I just have to remember to turn the gas on.

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