02 October 2011

Observations of Truth, Love and Memory

Truth is a potent but licit drug that none of us seem likely to imbibe.

Some "find" truth, but closer examination reveals - through dogma or faith - these folks have a death-grip on a chunk of fool's gold.

For the rest of us, the game is to walk toward truth. To walk toward truth even though the destination is just beyond our stride. Walking toward truth is a labor of love. It's a slog requiring discipline. And except in our progeny, the journey vanishes when we die. The walk ends as innocently as it began in our earliest winks of consciousness.

Seeking big truths differs from discovering little truths (e.g., What goes up, must come down). There are countless observable phenomena that, to the best of our knowledge, hold true. There is truth that science overwhelmingly agrees on. One is free to disagree with scientific truth, but be forewarned it carries the risk of navigating one's ship off the edge of a flat earth.

Absolutes, like truth, are like gossamer in straight-line winds. There is conventional wisdom which is about as good as it gets. Conventional wisdom is stable but mutable. Except for the incontrovertible part, Churchill had it right
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.
~Winston Churchill
Love is the most splendid phenomenon life has to offer. Love is irresistibly irrational. In The Female Brain, brain doc Louann Brizendine says
...falling in love is one of the most irrational behaviors or brain states imaginable for both men and women. The brain becomes illogical in the throes of new romance...
On infatuation she points out,
It shares brain circuits with states of obsession, mania, intoxication, thirst, and hunger.
I love all stages, facets and phases of love.

Truth be told, I wouldn't give up love for truth, but I'm a sucker for altered states.

Memory is perhaps the most perplexing. In an ode to senility poem called Compos Mentis I wrote,
The mind is a big-hearted tyrant
To get incrementally closer to truth, it's inefficient folly to rely exclusively on memory.

I once believed I had accurate if not vivid memory of the people and places I cared about. Admittedly I am stuck on a Big Sky college town where I first set eyes my spouse in the late 70s. My mind is full of technicolor clips of that expansive time (cf. my short story Recollections of Edible Gingerbread).

When I first returned to the magical Big Sky down after a 15-year absence, I was amused at how my accurate memory played tricks. Things had changed. But it was the things that hadn't changed that surprised me. Things that hadn't changed were sometimes subtly but stunningly different than I had remembered.

I've since learned something about how our brains work. Our brains are not serving up digitally true film clips from a file server. Rather each time we remember an event, our nerve pathways are firing anew to reconstruct the memory. In short,
We have revisionist memories.
Memory is useful when it leads to level-headed analysis. Left to its own devices, memory is a self-serving dictator. Nothing is as good or as bad as we remember it -- maybe it's better or worse than we remember it.

We are continually scripting and revising our narratives to buttress brittle egos.

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