Memory Matters


 Memory Matters

Memory is fundamental to our existence. It is at the root of our identity because it dictates who we are, how we behave, what we know, and how well we remember things from the past. When memory malfunctions, the world around us changes instantly – in ways that might not be immediately apparent.

Think about your personal memory: You may not have realized it until now but your memories shape your current reality – they dictate what you know about yourself and shape who you are today.

This concept might sound a bit abstract to you now, but the moment you start to think about it from that perspective, suddenly it becomes very real. For example, have you ever stated "I've always been this way", or wondered why you feel the same way about something today as you did 10 years ago? That's my point exactly!

"I've always been this way" implies that your current self is defined by your past self. This is where memory and personal identity meet. Remembering the past not only helps us understand who we are and how we got here – it also allows us to predict what will happen in the future.

So why do we even need memory? Isn't life simpler if we can just choose to forget everything? Why are we burdened with the responsibility of remembering our past?

Plato, Plato, and Plato (yes – that's three Platonics) would suggest that it's not just part of our existence, but that it is also essential to our individual success. By paying attention to commonalities between the past, present and future, you can use your memory as a vehicle for guiding your behavior – which leads us into the next question: Can we remember anything about the future? And if so – how does this work in practice?

Memory Matters (2009) by psychologist Elizabeth A. Phelps offers some interesting insights into this phenomenon. What she does in her book is investigate how our memory works by focusing on one specific aspect of it: episodic memory. Episodic memory is the ability we have to remember specific events (like what you ate at your sister's house last week for dinner) and is a subset of "declarative" memory (the ability for conscious recollection).

With regards to the future, there are two ways that our episodic memories can be applied – one way being quite obvious, and another way being much less conventional.

You can think of episodic memories as a movie playback in your mind. You can pick and choose the parts that are relevant, skip over things you don't care about and make changes to the plot if you like. For example, if I ask you "Hey, what did you do for your birthday last month?" – chances are that you won't only remember the content of your birthday party from last month. You may also remember some other events from last month around that time. These things might be important to remember because they're part of the same episode (like going out with friends or cooking a meal).

The second way episodic memories can be used is when they're remembered in their entirety across time. This is referred to as "episodic forecasting". The way it works is that you can think of it as a way to predict the future. For example, your memory of trauma from the past can be viewed as a "movie" that might foreshadow future events.

Of course, the final step would be to incorporate these two aspects of memory and apply them to your life – in order to evaluate where you're going wrong and how you might go about improving things. This is exactly what Elizabeth does in her book!

The Best Part: One of the biggest benefits I get from reading this book is how it helps me realize what's important in life. Elizabeth talks about things such as the importance of emotion, spirituality, creativity and how important it is to have a sense of oneself. It's no wonder that her book has sparked so much conversation – it's full of easy-to-understand examples that can be applied to anyone's life.

The Bad Part: A lot of her advice sounds like common sense. I've said this before in several reviews and I know people will roll their eyes at this, but I don't think basic concepts like "the proper setting for a job interview" should be accessible in every book. The science behind why "metaphor" is important is more complex than that! Nevertheless, the key to how she applies her advice to your life is definitely on the CD.

The Bottom Line: Every time I've read this book, I keep thinking of things I could have changed in my life. It's like a memory from a seemingly distant past that never really left me.

Title: Art and Aesthetic Experience (Leo Tolstoy)
WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy was originally published in three parts between 1869 and 1877 and follows several characters through various social circumstances in 19th century Russia.

Fact 1:
The novel, in its entirety, is utterly brilliant. It's not only one of the most famous novels ever written, but also one of the longest. The unabridged version is over 1000 pages long. That's a big book! However, the main character – Prince Andrey (in my opinion) really takes the cake. Prince Andrey is one of the most well developed characters I've ever read about. He goes through major change throughout the novel, maturing and learning as he goes along his journey towards adulthood. At the end of the book, you really feel like you've come to know him.

Fact 2:
Leo Tolstoy was a self-taught Russian author and philosopher (and a religious leader). He was a social reformer, campaigning against religious oppression and advocating peace among nations. He is best known for his realistic novels centered on the life of Russian families during the post-Napoleonic era. His novel has been called "an allegory of existential angst". A lot of young people might not know about this book, as it tends to be overshadowed by more popular works such as Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment or War and Peace.

I've read this book at least 4 times, and I really don't see myself reading it any time soon. It's so huge that it's a bit overwhelming. I mean how much can one person handle? I love to read, but this was the first book that made me feel like I had to put down what I was doing in order to focus on reading. However, if you're looking for a great novel full of descriptions and imagery, then this is your guy!

Title: The Art of Loving (Ernest Combrune)
The Art of Loving is the final book in the Love series written by Ernest Combrune.

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