In memory--or the lack of same
This morning I woke up, stumbled out of bed, wandered around for a few minutes and decided to meditate. I'd started my day that way two days ago and it had gone pretty well. So I grabbed my phone and googled for the guided meditation that I'd used. The one by...
"C'mon, you know this," I said to myself. "You listened to it two days ago. It's....."
"That's surprising," I thought. "I know who did the meditation. I just watched him on a live stream last night with Steven Pinker. I'm a subscriber to his content. It's...."
"Wow, that's interesting!" I thought. I tried again. Crickets.
Forgetting his name is not like forgetting the names of my kids (I checked. I still remembered. Or I believed I remembered their names. Who really knows.) But it wasn't a trivial lapse. It's not as though I'd forgotten one of the many obscure and fairly useless facts that I can still return to mind. It's not as though I was unable to recall a fact that I had not accessed in a few years. This is a guy whose name I know well. I've read his books. I listen to his podcasts. I've listened to three or four in the past week alone. I read his blog posts. I talk to other people about him. I know what he looks like.
He wrote one of the most influential books that I've ever read. I can see the cover. It's a blue face on a white background. The book is called "Waking Up." I can remember that. It's "Waking Up," by...
..."Waking Up," by...
"Sam," my mind finally replies.
"Sam?" I ask. "Sam who?"
I repeat myself a few times.
"Waking Up by Sam.... Waking Up by Sam..."
Finally from a blank space in my memory: "Sam Harris"
"OK!" I think. "Sam Harris. That's right."
I google for Sam Harris meditation and find it, while thinking how strange it was that I couldn't remember. Was I just not yet awake? Would a cold shower have helped? Is this what it's going to be like as I get older?
I briefly consider that idea. I imagine my memory going almost completely. I imagine not being able to remember anyone's name. I don't remember my friends. My kids are familiar, but their names are...gone. Dropped down the memory hole and forever unreachable.
Oddly, I'm not concerned. Whatever I remember or don't remember, while I was trying to remember I was that bit of consciousness that found that situation interesting and the possibility of losing my memory fascinating.
Good to know that I'll continue to be that person, no matter what facts I can't access. Good to know I'd continue to be that person even if I forgot that person's name.
But what if I forget that's who I am?