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First Memories and the TRUTH

kobieta's picture


It was reallly cool for me to learn about the science of memory and forgetting this week from the Radio Lab that froggies so kindly suggested for us. But, I think I focused more on the memory part rather than the forgetting part. I've always had this idea that in our brains, we hold some type of ruler, or at least linear object that contains the fourth dimension of time. In this ruler, the things we've done, the things we are doing, and the things that we have been predetermined to do (I guess this bit was heavily influenced by my faith) are already set, and it's just a matter of where the pointer (also part of the ruler) is at that determines what we experience. When we are recalling a memory, the pointer just sort of goes back in time through that ruler to "play out" our memories. The pointer has one flaw though, it can never move past where you are now; can't play the future.

But this revelation of a memory being constructed from stimuli, whether it be emotional, physical, or mental stimuli is really something else. From how I understood it, memory is not very factual, and that in fact, it is yet another way that we as people, and our brains, specifically, perceive and receive things. I guess it's a stretch by claiming this, but I feel that it reiterates my argument that there is no distinction between "reality" and "dreams" (sorry, Anne!). Memory, reality, and dreams all overlap, all influence each other, and are all synonymous to the word perception. In a way, I guess, no one really knows the TRUTH about life or about anything that ever occurs around us (Mirella: is this really a chair?). Well, no one except Neil Gaiman, who keeps it locked in his treasure chests, depriving the world of what we desperately want to know.

From this, I arrive at two questions. If memories are mere perceptions, constructions of different emotions and feelings that are triggered by stimuli, how much of it overlaps from person to person? Also, when does the brain determine to start constructing these memories?

The reason I ask these questions is because my twin sister and I share the same first memory. Up until I was sixteen, I thought it was but a vivid dream I remember so well. One day, my twin and I were talking about our weird dreams and this event came up. Both of us remembered the same exact details, we were two years old and taking  a stroll in the hill by our house with our grandfather who was carrying a rectangular, aluminum water jug from Japan Airlines, a gift to my mom from my aunt. It was reflecting the sun, and its bright red nozzle was so painstakingly colorful against the aluminum. The ground was a vibrant brown, dry and hard. We both thought we couldn't possibly have had the same exact dream and named it our first memories. But in retrospect, who is to say that those weren't just dreams? Was it a memory? Was it reality? If my claim is valid, then it's probably all three. Who knows? What was most interesting, was that our first memory, which is supposed to be based on individual perceptions, were the same exact thing. How did this overlap occur?

Also, we were two years old when this "event" happened. We agreed that we were two, but don't know how we know that we were two. Also, when does the brain start telling us to construct these memories? When does the brain start conditioning itself to take note of stimuli and create reactions to them? Is this an inheritable trait, engraved in our genes? My parents' first memories also occurred pretty early in their lifetime, while I have friends whose first memories were when they were six. What determines these things? And more importantly, WHY WON'T NEIL GAIMAN SHARE HIS TREASURE CHESTS?!


Alas, these are the things that haunt me at night...


dglasser's picture

Gaiman IS sharing

Gaiman IS sharing. The problem is we don’t know how to interpret the treasure he’s given us. “Facts are engraved Hierograms for which the fewest have the key.” We have to interpret the hierograms using a key from our own interpretation of the book. Let’s look at the quote closer…

FACTS- truths agreed upon by the majority of the subject group relative to the issue. EX: The majority of the world decides the definition of world peace. The majority of the people in a room decide whether or not an elephant is in the room. You decide your opinion which becomes relative fact, or self-truth.


ARE- exist as


HIEROGRAMS- sacred writing or a sacred character or symbol, implying that the facts are old and therefore universal; always existing.


FOR- designated purpose




THE- the


FEWEST- minority; privileged/abled few

HAVE- posses


THE- the

KEY- the tool to decode ie: open.


The real question in my mind is not, why won’t Gaiman share his treasure chest but, is there only one key and how do I get it?

Gaiman writes below the quotation, “For two of the few: Jonathan Carroll and Tori Amos.” This implies that only a few have the key to open the treasure and therefore there is one key, although many may share a copy like Carroll and Amos. But nevertheless this dedication implies there is one way to understand truth, one way to open the treasure. I disagree. I believe there are many keys, many paths to understanding all relative to the individual.

I have yet to decide whether or not I believe there to be more than one universal truth; more than one treasure; more than one hierogram, but I have decided there is definitely more than one path to enlightened thought. There is definitely more than one key. Each key is relative to the individual. When an individual finds what best defines him/herself, and forcefully follows that path, he/she will find their own key and ultimately the hierograms of truth that Gaiman depicts.

It is possible that Gaiman believes there to be more than one key, and Carroll and Amos are two of the few who have discovered their own keys, but we can’t know for sure based on this quotation. There's still alot to unpack.