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Thursday, July 24, 2014
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Published: Saturday, 12/22/2001

Bemused by process of mental storage

Memory can be a big, black hole. Some say that thinking backward is a sign of age, one I never want to acquire.

The truth is that as the years pile up, one tends to become lazy, even more than forgetful.

For example, it is easier to fill column space with think-backs than it is to come up with think-aheads.

Memory is a curious thing. My childhood and early teens are recalled in detail. This seemed to be a period when my mind automatically absorbed like a sponge and retained everything.

In later years, the storage process ceased to be a routine thing. I began to write books and newspaper articles and from that date on, I drew heavily on stored impressions, putting out mentally rather than drawing in.

My childhood and early years were ones of great national revolution, so it follows that my memories and impressions of such times would predominate.

It seems odd to me, however, that of my prolific writing years, I retain no detailed recollection of the work, the locale in which stories were written, or much else except the great labor involved.

As I look back, I wonder if the years from 1930 to 1960 were devoid of color and not worth detailed recall, or did extensive creative brain work crowd out other impressions and memories?

I've never read that such a thing happens, so the theory is pure speculation. I do know that for approximately 30 years, the process of writing - up to 16 hours daily - drove nearly every other thought from my mind.

In these late years, writing occupies only a minimum of my time. Along the way, I overcame “writer's block” and no end of physical annoyances connected with years of around-the-calendar writing without breaks. Nevertheless, though my mind now has more than enough breathing space, I still am puzzled by the lack of stimulating, incoming memory data.

Were those midyears lacking in interesting events, or has my mind ceased to recognize or acknowledge colorful detail?

I look back on the past year, and what happenings or developments do I recall? The period seems a great void. Advances were made in space and science but nothing that fired the imagination for any length of time. Environmental and other world alarms were sounded, but again, nothing was pinpointed as an immediate great threat to humanity. Wars - old conflicts and new ones - were as usual, with the same temporary solutions.

Perhaps the most startling occurrence, the scientific development of cloning, attracted only moderate attention. Though the scientific breakthrough may radically change all life in future decades, the present generation voices little concern.

In this modern era of computers and instant information, one has far less need for memory. This fits my relaxed pattern of life quite nicely.

So instead of worrying about an absence of worthwhile things to remember, I'll just plod along in my usual way, living each day as it comes.

Millie Benson is a Blade columnist.



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