Oh good grief, will that lady please sit down so the rest of us can see?
I’m at the spring school concert for one of my grandchildren, who is dressed in white shirt and dark pants somewhere on the third row, right side, there, in the shadow, just beyond the edge of the light. Yeah, him. Take your finger out of your nose, buddy.
But the lady, and a dozen others, are making it hard to see my kid at all because they keep popping up, holding cameras, iPads, and phones at arm’s length to record their little darlings’ anonymous instant. Me, I’m trying to sit back, focus, and be in the moment so that the images and sounds in real time are seared into my memory.
I won’t need to pull up a grainy, dark, blurry picture to remember the grainy, dark, blurry image of the event I saw – through a viewfinder.
Studies show you will remember something better and appreciate it more if you concentrate on the moment with your own eyes, instead of looking at it through a viewfinder.
Elizabeth Loftus, a psychological science professor at the University of California, Irvine, says when our concentration at an event is to record it, it’s like we are offloading the responsibility of memory from our brain to our phones. Or, we’re so distracted by the photo taking process that we miss the moment altogether.
People upload 30,000 hours of content to YouTube – every hour.
I’m not sure if there is an exact parallel to the “losing the moment to a photo” idea, but I’ve discovered a strange phenomenon relating to journaling and memory. I’ve been transcribing my handwritten notes from journals of 50 years ago when I was in the army. Everything was new and not so wonderful for a young, pacifist country boy who grew up in a town of 788 people now thrust into a world of strangers being trained to kill people.
Still, there were friends, events, churches, girls and Kodak moments from those years that I’ve shared with people ever since. Special moments, meaningful events and forks in the pathway of my journey seared into my memory.
Yet, I’ve discovered that many of the most memorable, transformative, fulfilling moments of those days went completely unmentioned in my journals. Stories that made it through my memory dozens of times during the past half century never made it through my pen.
When I first realized the omissions, it struck me as strange. What I’ve come to believe, in a totally unscientific insight, is that I didn’t write down such significant things because I knew they were so memorable I’d never forget them. Things like:
- My first ski trip when we encountered girls from church at the top of Monarch Mountain. It was my first day on skis and I’d done well and wanted to impress them. After we chatted a minute, we all turned to go down the hill and I immediately fell. Trying to catch up, I fell again and didn’t see them the rest of the day.
- After wearing a full leg cast from a ski injury I had my buddy drive me to the base hospital to get it off, carrying my bike along with us so I could ride it home. Ha. My leg was useless until I’d rehabbed it.
- A spur of the moment trip to Tacoma to see a girl I’d met through her cousin in Wisconsin.
- After saving for a big ski trip to Vail, buddies Steve, Paul and I brought a fourth, Dennis, from Florida. He hadn’t skied, but said he was a surfer, so we thought if he could surf, he could ski. Wrong. After sleeping in the heatless van in the parking lot, waking to a quarter inch of frost inside the windows, we spent the morning at Vail, the premier ski area in Colorado, with him on the bunny slope. He never got it and we abandoned him.
- Or, feeling compelled to back out of a trip to San Antonio to see a friend I’d met when stationed there, feeling I shouldn’t go. Hours after I was to leave, my mom called to say my cousin Dickie had died in a one-car accident. I went home to Wisconsin instead.
So, what prompts recollection of these events as I transcribe my journals? As I’ve gone through chronological entries, little butterflies flap around in my mind, whispering, “Didn’t this or that happen about this time?” We are an accumulation of our memories and each works in some kind of symbiotic relationship with others.
It’s kind of like how the things we eat work together in our bodies for nutrition and health. Who knows how an orange releases enzymes from a pork chop? Or how fish digests better with a glass of white wine?
I don’t. But thinking about why I wrote about fairly mundane things without recording events I considered very significant then and since makes me scratch my head.
Now, please scooch aside ma’am…I need to get this pic.