Dear Members and Constituents
Visiting with my nearly ninety one year old grandmother, I’ve come to gain a better appreciation for memory. How we sometimes take it for granted and how even that can be taken away from us. I will admit it can be fun providing dramatically different reactions to the same anecdote, or having the opportunity for “do-overs” when answering the exact same question. And even though it’s sad to repeatedly tell my grandma how many children I have, their names and ages; you do what you can to enjoy the times together. Recently I’ve noticed an interesting pattern. On any given day, she may repeat an anecdote from her early life several times, however, from one day to the next the anecdote she repeats seems to change (and the previous day’s anecdote is often not mentioned). I think this insight reveals something deeper about our brains. I have come to believe our brains use “themes” as a means to prepare for conversation. Folks with better memories catch themselves doing this and avoid repeating the same anecdote to the same person (however, they do indulge in repeating the anecdote –often in the same words—to different people whenever possible). This copy-and-paste phenomenon is efficient and having the theme change over time means we lessen the risk of boring our audience. The theme remains top-of-mind for as long as it’s useful and is then replaced by another. The alternative, complete original thought all the time, is akin to building a road every time you need to get somewhere. It can be done, but it’s not practical. Revolving, “canned’ stories are way easier. Where was I? O yeah, did I tell you Rusty Corne (donut boy) has delivered four dozen LaMar’s donuts? (which include some veritable behemoths, you “specialty” donut fans are in luck). Don’t forget to come get one.