Today I read half a book, THE MIND'S PAST by Michael S. Gazzaniga, who is a distinguished professor of cognitive neuroscience at Dartmouth. It is also a pretty good read, although his use of adjectives is disruptive sometimes. I'm especially interested in what he has to say about memory. He says that "starting in childhood and going up to our forties, our brains are cooking up untrue stories about our past." He has this wonderful quote from Bernard Malamud'a DUBIN'S LIVES: "There is no life that can be recaptured wholly, as it was. Which is to say that all biography is ultimately fiction. What does that tell you about the nature of life, and does one really want to know?"
I used to write this quote on the board in the Memoir class: "The aim of memoir is not to nail down facts but to gather impressions of the past." Those are Patricia Hampl's words, not mine. These scientific books on the brain support the idea of our memories fictionalizing our past. I suspect that the way we tell our stories shapes a meaning for our lives. But is meaning an illusion?
I wanted to post the picture below for the 4th of July post but thought it was coming up sideways. Wrong.