Time and the brain


QUOTE 1: So I sat rapt during the neuroscientists’ talks as they described how our minds perceive the past, present, and future. “Perceive” maybe isn’t strong enough a word: our minds construct the past, present, and future, and sometimes get it badly wrong.

This is becoming an old trope. It is clear that "reality" should be best spoken with quote-unquote to denote its lack of objectivity. And so science makes Kantians of us all.

QUOTE 2: The bottom line is that memory is essential to constructing scenarios for ourselves in the future. Anecdotal evidence backs this up. Our ability to project forward and to recollect the past both develop around age 5, and people who are good at remembering also report having vivid thoughts about the future.

This leads me to wonder how beneficial is the daily habit of recollection to develop a stronger sense of purpose in life? That is, the time spent recalling the day and appropriately reviewing the memories for their positive/negative content based on some external benchmarks (in my case the benchmark is The Benchmark, Jesus), seems to reinforce positive changes in the future.

QUOTE 3: It’s not that our memory is a glitchy wetware version of computer flash memory; it’s that the computer metaphor just doesn’t apply. Roediger said we store only bits and pieces of what happened—a smattering of impressions we weave together into feels like a seamless narrative. When we retrieve a memory, we also rewrite it, so that the time next we go to remember it, we don’t retrieve the original memory but the last one we recollected. So, each time we tell a story, we embellish it, while remaining genuinely convinced of the veracity of our memories.

Let us also, once and for all, drop the "mind is like a computer" metaphor. it is simply innacurate, as innacurate as say Bohr’s "solar system" atomic structure is to actual particles.

Final QUOTE:

But, when nothing subsists from a distant past, after the death of others, after the destruction of objects, only the senses of smell and taste, weaker but more enduring, more intangible, more persistent, more faithful, continue for a long time, like souls, to remember, to wait, to hope, on the ruins of all the rest, to bring without flinching, on their nearly impalpable droplet, the immense edifice of memory. (Marcel Proust , Remembrance of Things Past, vol. I, Swann’s Way)


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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