Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
Hard Wiring of the Brain
Time and again a casual conversation will steer itself toward something that happened last week, last year, or many years ago. It seems that some people can remember many details about recent events where others have spotty recollections. More often than not, older people can and do recall events from decades past, sometimes in sufficient detail that just a wee bit of doubt works itself into the minds of the listeners.
Experts on memory and cognitive abilities would be the first to note that memory is almost always selective and sometimes inconsistent with the facts. It may not matter if the old geezer regaling you with the details of the 1958 World Series gets some things wrong or even the year that his favorite team won the World Series. To him, he is willing to go out on a limb about the truth about the things he remembers.
Putting things in notebooks or journals has the utility of being handy if some obscure details need to be explained at a later time. And trip reports, travel logs, or merely dated notes jotted in a field notebook have historically been more reliable as accounts of past events than the hearsay of would-be witnesses testifying to those circumstances. Not all notes and reports, however; are complete and perfect testimonials to events, circumstances, or interpretations—but they stand up well when the only counter-narratives are present-tense verbal accounts of things in the past. Fact-based accounts are always preferred but we all must guard against the accounts that are contrived. In other words, some people just make stuff up. No wonder that we have litigation and court proceedings.
The truth should protect us but it does not always do so. Before the frustrated Footloose Forester screams into his Covid-19 mask, he wants to make the point that there is a huge divide between science-based findings and politically massaged pronouncements that all too often hold sway because they get transmitted through bully pulpit microphones and cameras. So, what does that have to do with hard-wiring and memory?
The shocking air of bravado about how well our Covid-19 pandemic is being handled at the national level, as compared to the factual data surely is certifiable hard-wired subject matter for most of us, with or without our own personal field notes or journals. And if we survive this pandemic, we will remember the overall circumstances, never mind an incorrect detail here and there.