Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I have a cold

Monday night I was knocked down by a cold.  I'd had a small sore throat and thought I had non-hodgkins lymphoma.  Of course.  When I put my ear to the ground and hear hoofbeats, I think "zebra."  I was supposed to go to the temple with Pam, my visiting teacher, at ten in the morning on Tuesday, and I got up to do that, and realized I was not fit to be around other people:  sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, cough and intense sluggishness.  For once, I did not let my guilt drive me to go, and called her to say I was ill.  Then I went back to bed and read one of the books Tom had checked out of the library on Monday:  HEAD CASE: HOW I ALMOST LOST MY MIND TRYING TO UNDERSTAND MY BRAIN by Dennis Cass.  Tom and his best friend, Al the neurologist, are exchanging e-mails about logic vs. intuition.  Al doesn't believe in anything that can't be scientifically proven.  This raises a lot of questions about the brain and Tom is willing to ask them.  Tom would like to write a book with Al.  Al is mostly dancing around the idea, but he does this in such a funny style, that THAT might be a book in itself.  Anyway, HEAD CASE was a fine read because it was written by a journalist and not a scientist.
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.

2 comments:

Miss Magpie said...

You're sick and you had all my kids today! Well, thank you-I hope they weren't an uber pain and hope you feel better soon.

I like the info on memory. What a fascinating topic.

Louise Plummer said...

Your kids were a godsend. Harrison and Anne really worked hard and the two M's watched "Akeelah and the Bee." I stayed in bed two days and today I am up and about, although I haven't returned to swimming. Maybe tomorrow.