Our Fallible Memory

Much of a sustained and successful spirituality hinges upon our memory, on our ability to recall the ways that God has acted in our life. St. Augustine, to take one example, spends a good chunk of the Confessions investigating memory and its relationship to discerning God's activity and will.

But it's not just spirituality that depends upon memory. Our very identity depends, to a remarkable extent, on memory. If we couldn't remember experiences or information, we really couldn't know anything at all. We certainly couldn't know ourselves. 

Advertisement

The fascinating subject of memory was taken up recently in the New York Times by professors Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simons. An excerpt:

When we recall our own memories, we are not extracting a perfect record of our experiences and playing it back verbatim. Most people believe that memory works this way, but it doesn’t. Instead, we are effectively whispering a message from our past to our present, reconstructing it on the fly each time. We get a lot of details right, but when our memories change, we only “hear” the most recent version of the message, and we may assume that what we believe now is what we always believed. Studies find that even our “flashbulb memories” of emotionally charged events can be distorted and inaccurate, but we cling to them with the greatest of confidence.
 

See the rest of their intriguing piece, "Why Our Memory Fails Us," here

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

The latest from america

 10.17.2018 Pope Francis greets Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of Chicago before a session of the Synod of Bishops on young people, the faith and vocational discernment at the Vatican Oct. 16. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)
“We take people where they are, walking with them, moving forward,” Cardinal Blase Cupich said.
Michael J. O’LoughlinOctober 20, 2018
Catherine Pakaluk, who currently teaches at the Catholic University of America and holds a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University, describes her tweet to Mr. Macron as “spirited” and “playful.”
Emma Winters October 19, 2018
A new proposal from the Department of Homeland Security could make it much more difficult for legal immigrants to get green cards in the United States. But even before its implementation, the proposal has led immigrants to avoid receiving public benefits.
J.D. Long-GarcíaOctober 19, 2018
 Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, then nuncio to the United States, and then-Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, are seen in a combination photo during the beatification Mass of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J., Oct. 4, 2014. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)
In this third letter Archbishop Viganò no longer insists, as he did so forcefully in his first letter, that the restrictions that he claimed Benedict XVI had imposed on Archbishop McCarrick—one he alleges that Pope Francis later lifted—can be understood as “sanctions.”
Gerard O’ConnellOctober 19, 2018