28 August 2006

Too Much Memory

Who among us hasn’t wished for a better memory? We are envious of our peers that can seemingly remember every detail of every book, paper, or article they read. “If only I could do that,” we think, “then I would be….”

A recent conversation got me thinking about the drawbacks to having a perfect memory. A woman was telling me about an article she read (appropriately, she could not remember the source) about a woman with, by all measurements, a perfect memory. Such a feat is not unheard of for those with Asperger’s Sundrome, but this woman did not have any of the other problems associated with that disorder, such as social anxiety and communication deficiencies.

Perfect memory with no underlying neurological disorder? Sounds great, but by her account she was plagued by her memory. Her problem, which she shares with those with Asperger’s Syndrome, is that her memory is “capacious but unselective.” In her case, because every memory was equally vivid, all were omnipresent, which meant that in a particular setting, she could not distinguish between memories that were related versus those that really mattered. In short, her memories were too distracting, and she longed for the ability to forget.

I’m a fan—albeit a neophyte—of history. In simplistic terms, I like knowing why things are the way they are. I think school curricula would be better if there were more focus on history. I also enjoy reading Church history. But in light of the above, I wonder if there is such a thing as too much history. Can our knowledge of the past be as much of a distraction to us today as this woman’s memories were to her? Can our focus on past events, doctrines, and directives prevent us from understanding the meanings of those we receive today?

Related Scriptures:
Isaiah 43:18
Isaiah 46:9

Also Related:
Isaiah 49:15
Alma 46:8
D&C 9:9
Alma 36:13,17,19
Isaiah 43:25
Helaman 5:5-6,9-10,12,14


Jared said...

I think it's unfortunate that our society keeps track of naughty words--particularly racial slurs. In its own way, I think doing so teaches hate to future generations.

cathy said...

Although the study of the past can help us in the future, I think that if you focus too much on what has happened you lose sight of what is currently happening. Revelation, whether personal or from those in authority, is given in the current state, that is not to say that past revelation or teaching isn't relevant today, but that you need to always keep in mind the situtation and the circumstances.