Tully is our 9 year old border collie (one of three, and we live in a medium size house with no yard in the U District = we are dumber than our dogs). Like most dogs, the meaning of her life can be summed up in four letters–food, chow, something like that. Watching her endless drooling gaze at whatever we might be eating, regardless of how many bites we’ve already given her, I suspect that she has no real short-term food memory. Her response to any treat seems to be a look of “and when’s dinner?”
It reminds me of the film, “Memento,” in which the protagonist (am I remembering this right?) has lost his ability to make new memories past the date on which his wife was (he thinks) murdered. So he spends the whole film writing down clues to himself about his investigation into her murder. He has progressive tattoos done to leave permanent “facts” about what he has uncovered since he tends to quickly forget everything. Needless to say, he’s pretty vulnerable to manipulative people around him.
I’ve started my Masters degree this fall in Psychology and feel rather in awe of the volumes (literally) we are assigned to read. Blundering around the library the other day, I was simply amazed at how many books there are, how much info there is, and wondered how teachers and professors ever find a way to choose exactly what to emphasize within a field. And I thought this: what if there were no books? What if we couldn’t write anything down. Imagine a world in which an education based on testimony outside your generation is impossible–you only can learn what a person has time to learn within one lifetime. Would each generation even be able to go much beyond the discovery of the wheel?
What we are privileged to learn and know stands on the shoulders of our parents, our long-term culture, and all antiquity. Without that, I’d be writing my blog on cave walls with ink made from blood, bugs, and berries. We’re not smarter, just blessed with extensive collective memory.
We should try hard not to forget that…