Memory isn’t all it’s touted to be

When you remember a thing, it’s not the thing you are remembering, but rather the last time you remembered the thing.  So it is said are the workings of memory.  Memory is not as accurate as you’d like to believe and with each remembering there is greater chance for error and change.

I’ve been looking at routes and travel ideas and I wonder, sometimes, whether other people have the same experience I have.  Things keep changing on you!  In the world, assuredly.  In my memories… well, let’s look at that.  Perception is everything.

“Like all great travellers,
I have seen more than I remember,
and remember more than I have seen.”
– Benjamin Disraeli

Memory truly is a miracle.  How we are able to dial back into our stored experience and pull out details from days and years and even decades ago is something to marvel at.  But as our justice system is coming to realize witnesses don’t all remember the same details, or even the correct details, and suggestion has the power to change what we ‘remember.’   I think Disraeli was right.

I’m sure most couples go through this;  this see more than you remember and remember more than you see situation.  Who hasn’t talked with a spouse about an event they both attended and suddenly found themselves asking with whom your spouse had attended that event because they sure weren’t remembering anything that YOU recall!  Peg and I do it frequently.  In fact we have known we do it for so long that taking advantage of the different things we each remember has become a PLUS for many situations.

The fact, for example, that she remembers the names of men better than I, and I remember the names of women better than she has enabled us to actually get the names of couples correct on many an occasion. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of your partner is a good thing.  Even though my generalized memory may be better than Peggy’s — there are still many times that I’d be lost without her unique memories of things I quickly forget (including, sometimes, things I, personally, have said….)

A few years ago I had the mileages across most states on different Interstates memorized.  I did that much driving! Today, I’m lucky if I can get it right within 50 or a 100 miles.  I am still pretty good with names; but I find that I don’t always put them in the right context — so that Aurora IL and Aurora CO begin to look more similar than they should.  I still tend to remember places by … get this … the things I ate there.  But if I stay too long in a place that memory tool doesn’t work.  And staying too long in places is the nature of being an RV’er.  One or two meals are memorable — 15 or 20, not so much.

In trip planning I find my greatest memory frustrations. For example, this up coming trip South…

I have sort of been wanting to run through KS and OK to check them off our list of States West of the Mississippi that we have RV’d in.  Those two and AZ are the only blanks on our map.  However, earlier in life I have had very little contact with Kansas and I draw a blank knowing what I want to DO while we were in Kansas.  I suppose I could honestly say that I don’t really want to DO anything — I just want to pass through it.  I have a hard time admitting that though….  I guess that in spite of my friends Paul and Mildred Archer from Ottawa and Pat Johnson who lives near Manhattan and a trip in the truck to Wichita Falls I don’t have any memories of Kansas at all and I’m not itching to make any — at least not this time of year.

Southbound Autumn '15Our delayed departure has put wrinkles in our plans that aren’t being helped by my memory quirks.  Not only have many campgrounds turned off their water in advance of freezing temperatures; many of them have closed for the season altogether. In Iowa all the Corps parks closed at the end of September. We aren’t opposed to spending the odd night with Uncle Wally when needed but don’t like to make it a habit.  It’s not all that much fun.

I can visualize pretty much all of the route from Milwaukee to the Kansas border, and pretty much all of the route from Santa Rosa NM to Bosque NM — I KNOW those roads.  More precisely, I used to know those roads and that’s the kicker.  Things change.  Both one’s memories of what used to be, as well as the reality of what is there now.

I never trusted remembering places by street names.  Every little town in America has a Washington street!  Instead I learned to remember places by landmarks — often buildings.  But you know, that doesn’t work too well in a country that hates old things, and tears down buildings,  and remakes itself every few years.  I’m finding that the things I remember have been torn down and replaced by something that not only doesn’t LOOK the same, but the things that DO look the same have often appeared to have moved because roads have been re-routed and moved to make room for roundabouts and added lanes.  And the more populous an area, the more changes.stone church

I’m still hoping to head Southwest in a couple weeks and run through Kansas on our way to Bosque.  That’s still the idea — lets not even call it a plan.  As we’re are traveling, I wonder what will pop into my brain and pass itself off as a memory?

Like many of my contemporaries, I grew up in an environment that thought very differently about longevity.  As we travel around the country — or just take a day trip as we did on Friday — I see a lot of new-ish churches.

metal building church

They look rather like office buildings, these new metal-building churches and they present a huge change in society.  “In my day” people still thought about building things to last.  It wasn’t the medieval view of building for forever where it took centuries to complete a stone masonry built church — but they were brick and mortar and built to last a couple hundred years, if not 1,000 years.  And, because they did last I could reliably use them for landmarks — as churches.  But today a lot of those old churches are no longer churches — they have been repurposed.  Thank God.  At least they haven’t been torn down!

I have been thinking about how technology growth has already changed us as a society and how it is continuing to change us.  NO ONE is thinking about building anything to last 1,000 years anymore.   I’m not sure very many people are thinking about the next 100 years — even though as a nation that is the kind of duration we ought to be thinking about. Our 2 year election cycle and our 4 year presidential cycle pretty much force us to remake the world we live in every 2-8 years.  And that is a longterm view.  The life cycle on a smart phone is much shorter!

I suppose that people in the future won’t look to landmarks when going from place to place.  Even though I have my GPS I still find myself trying to remember where I have been and how to get there.  There really aren’t many places I haven’t been — except of course for Kansas.  We have become dependent upon our technology go get along; to live; to function.  I can’t help but wonder how safe a course that is in the long term — but there I go again, thinking in archaic terms.  Long Term.  Is there even such a thing anymore.

I’m looking forward to the trip South.  I’m sure we’ll find some RV parks to camp at so we can avoid Uncle Wally.  And maybe I’ll really remember something from one of those few trips I’ve made into Kansas.  I’m positive that we won’t be spending our usual amount of time making the trip.  Kansas would be a lot more appealing in the Spring or earlier in the Fall.  But we always have fun with our travels and we will this trip too!

Thanks for stopping, and I’ll talk with you tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Memory isn’t all it’s touted to be

  1. My memories of states have always been more to do with an event or experience that occurred while we were there, Peter. I do like the food aspect though…I’m inspired to try that! North Dakota is best remembered by the funnel cloud we drove under, pulling our travel trailer. We were on the interstate, had nowhere to go, and managed to not get blown over. The biggest thing I remember about Kansas was watching the dust devils rise up against a clear blue sky over the perpetually flat plain….that and Ike’s home in Abilene, which we really enjoyed. I’m sure there is a lot more to that state, and we will most likely find out someday.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that your memories were based upon food! As a teacher, mine often were based on holiday events and specific students. Also on music, popular songs on the radio. 🙂


  3. I know full well about memory problems. Recently, I forgot my debit card number at the cash register. It only lets you try twice. A very sweet lady paid for my groceries so I would not have to put anything back. I had used that card the day before and knew it then. Why I forgot it so suddenly is anybody’s guess. In nursing school we were taught that in old age you remember your childhood better than last month. They’re right about that. It’s frustrating. I trust in God to help me out and keep me safe.There’s a lot of memories I’m sorry are gone. I stare at old photos while wondering who the people are.
    That aside–Google those states you haven’t been to. You should easily find places to see or eat at.


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