The happy accident of memory

by practicalspactical

There is a word for an evolutionary adaptation that has evolved for one purpose and then is opportunistically exploited for some wholly new function. Jury-rigged. It is clear that memory was like this – that the mind, which had to simulate the world through complex electrochemical signals, could, with only minor adaption, save and store these simulations for later use – and storage always being at a premium, and the ruthless sandcastling of natural selection mindlessly pushing all our ancestors towards every advantage, it was a relatively easy move to store these simulated experiences in a lossy format – hence, the hazy imprecision of our memories as opposed to that other simulation side project, the arresting vivid dream.

And so our memories, sad-sweet to begin with, are doubly so, in that they are true shadows of shadows, a dodge of a dodge, and quiet subtle proof of the partial solipsism of all of us living, at last resort, only in our heads.

Only in our heads. Even as I type this. And rearrange electrons, and send it out to you, across the sea of night, across that other beach and ocean and then the structured bed of sand upon which our glowing shadows play, lightning passing through logic gates.

Oh, you long-haired, you well-greaved Achaeans, a thousand ships, all for beauty, and memories, and songs, that fly free of our bone cage and sing a spring everlasting. Like staring into an eclipse. Like the cardboard shadow box in our narrow vestibule, never made, false remembered, or true forgotten – or me, in same but other younger bodies, looking in mirrors – two, three, eleven, eighteen, nineteen, twenty-one, twenty-two like Dedalus, twenty seven, twenty eight — all me. All the same.