Thursday, June 14, 2007

Who am I?



The following might come as a shock to you but have no fear..for the memory of it..need not be trusted...

Fascinating, earth shattering, wow...scary..

These are some of the reactions going through mind as I was laying there listening to a one hour special about memory on NPR.
It was all about memory and its inner workings...and it just got my mind going..

Studies show that everytime you see or experience something, unlike previous assumptions that a memory of the event was stored away somewhere to be taken out and viewed later, no such thing happens.
Instead every time you “remember” the event you formulate it anew in your mind. You make up a whole new scenario based on a suggestion of an occurrence.
Imagine someone whispers in your mind “you’re standing on a purple hill overlooking a silvery sea full of frolicking pink dolphins”, your mind just created an image based on this outside suggestion.
Now imagine this suggestor is you...and the suggestion is the last time you conjured up this event...
The more times you “remember” this event the more it will change because it is based on the prior suggestion which is based on the suggestion that preceded it...
So the people with the most accurate “memories” are those with amnesia!
It made so much sense.
When I was 4 years old I suffered a bad injury and for years I had a somewhat vivid memory of that event. That is until I happened to be discussing it with my parents one rainy shabbos afternoon (wait, was it rainy?) and they said that there was such a glaring impossibility in my memory that it cannot be true. It simply could not have happened as I remembered it happening. That means, either this memory was suggested to me outside of myself or it changed so much over time that it ceased to bear any resemblance to an actual event.

Scientists working on rats were able to make rats forget occurences as they were occuring by injecting a chemical during the event, blocking a memory from ever registering.
But then they discovered something unbelievable which helped confirm this theory. Even after the event occurred, by injecting the same chemical during a “remembering” of the event they were able to achieve the same result and erase the memory.
That means that when we remember we’re not bringing up a stored memory but formulating a new event based on a suggestive whisper and this new event was not being allowed to be the basis of any further suggestions.

Then I thought about the body.
Scientists have long known that virtually every part of the body regenerates itself over time.
The skin takes..about 2 weeks! (Every 2 weeks your skin is a completely new skin than the one 2 weeks ago).
The bones take about 10 years..
And the organs fluctuate. With liver turning over every 300-500 days and the heart taking a lot longer..
The average cell in your body is 7 to 10 years old.

So stop and think for a moment. The person that you were 15-20 years ago is not here anymore.
So who am I?
Can I trust these memories of my past floating around my head..?
The body is gone and even the memories don’t really exist.
Its like every moment is your first..which I suppose can be a good thing.

So then I thought..wait a second..why am I getting all bent out of shape because of my lost injury memory..?
It’s not like it happened to me...


hmm


.

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30 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant. As is every one of your posts. Brilliant and thought provoking. Thank you!

June 14, 2007 5:39 PM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

david - you're weird.

but don't be offended. in a little while, you won't exist, and the new you won't have any memory of this comment...
lol.

seriously, i gotta think about this a bit and see if it shtims with Torah values and teachings...

June 14, 2007 6:55 PM  
Anonymous Allie said...

Yea, wow, this one is a little too deep... even for me.. :)

June 14, 2007 10:47 PM  
Blogger chav said...

Well, I don't see how it contradicts Torah hashkafa... For one thing, this theory (which, regarding the body, I have thought a lot about...) supports that the essential "you" is your neshama. That certainly never really physically changes, does it?

June 15, 2007 12:22 AM  
Blogger Bas~Melech said...

Well, of course you are not the same body that you were earlier. Look at a picture of you at two years old -- where did that kid go? He doesn't exist anymore.

I will answer with one of the only things that the skeptic Decartes was able to affirm without doubt:
"Cogito ergo sum."
I think, therefore I am.

"You" are intangible. You are eternal. This world is an illusion.

Scientifically speaking, I will have to go back to your source to get what you're saying, but it's been a long time since anyone thought memories were "stored." What are they made out of? Our brains work like a network of connections that turn on and off. There is no videotape of anything that happened to you that forms your memory. The penseive is a complete impossibility :P

And it is definitely true that our memories are inaccurate. They are warped by our perspective, emotions, and ideas of what should have happened.

Anyway, we need to work with our memories because that is all we have. I believe that memories are one of the direct ways in which we see G-d's guidance -- You can't really choose what you remember and when (though you can try) --they are a given challenge or tool to deal with.

Dreamer-- which part exactly were you having problems with?

June 15, 2007 12:46 AM  
Blogger Shoshana said...

That's way weird to think about, but really cool too - seems like we get a whole new start all the time.

June 15, 2007 9:51 AM  
Blogger chaverah said...

wow, ok let me think about this...............First off the mafia should get that rat injections! they would then not have to kill off so many people!
Secondly we should take as many videos for our kids as possible so, in the future, even though they may think something happen you can prove them wrong. WE WERE GOOD PARENTS!!!

June 15, 2007 10:40 AM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

anon...
thanks..
:-)

dreamer...
well..if I keep coming back to read then I dont need to remember it..lol
Why would it be against hashkafah..

Actually heres what I was thinking..
Everyone asks, why do we say "Akeidas Yitzchok brachamim tizkor"..and other times we ask Hashem to "remember" us with mercy..
If memory is just a fixed pulling up a static event then how would you go back and rmember something differently..especially if were talking about Hashem?
But if we can understanding the act of remembering differently..based on this theory..then every time Hashem "remembers" its really an entirely different event that can be seen in a different light..

allie...
Dont give up..
:-)

chav...
True
actually the neshama is constantly in flux..but its still the same neshama...

Bas_Melech...
well I was taking it much further than that. If you leave a plum out for a week it'll get wrinkled, shriveled and brown..but its the SAME matter as the plum a week ago.
Whereas we have a complete turnover of cells so that the person..the actual matter..that was there years ago..is not there anymore AT ALL.

btw..what's a penseive?

"And it is definitely true that our memories are inaccurate. They are warped by our perspective, emotions, and ideas of what should have happened."
Yes that has always been knwn to be true..but this theory takes it further again...and says that it doesnt just change..but when u remember something its really happening for the first time then!..

I'll get you the link

June 15, 2007 10:46 AM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

Shoshana...
True.
To me it shows that its really the present that matters and perhaps exists..

chaverah...
lol..true..
They have actually tried it on humans...with mixed results..
yeah..good idea...but videos could be doctored..lol

Here's the link..its a good listen..
http://www.wnyc.org/shows/radiolab/episodes/2007/06/08

June 15, 2007 10:53 AM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

dave - if you're asking what a pensieve is, you obviously never read harry potter.
:)

oh, and i listened to the link... thanks for posting it. it was very intersting.
it doesn't exactly say that things are happening for the first time each time you remember... maybe listen to it again...
:)

i like your "akedas yitzchak" interpretation, btw.
:)

have a wonderful shabbos!

June 15, 2007 12:14 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

dreamer...
I cant deny that. So what IS a pensieve?

It certainly does imply that..Its not based on a stored memory rather we construct something new everytime..
Thanks..
:-)

June 15, 2007 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Rodrigo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

June 15, 2007 1:34 PM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

well, the "HP" theory of a pensieve is that your memories take up space in your brain, and you want to be able to think of other things, so a great wizard can take his thoughts and memories and out it into a pensieve... and when he takes his memories out of the pensieve to see/view/rmember them again, he can see them clearly... and he can show others what's in his pensieve, too...


it's not that we're constructing something totally new each time... not a "yesh me'ayin" - there had to have been a semblance of a memory there for him to even construct a new memory...

in the case where they used this theory for therapy purposes, the woman never actually forgot the old memory... it's just that it was less painful for her... she wasn't reconstructing new ones...
just keeping the old...

June 15, 2007 1:41 PM  
Anonymous Allie said...

I'm guessing you're a fan of R' Tatz...
Ok, it was late last night, and I was tired. But now that I've had a whole night to sleep on it.. :)
Sometimes I wonder if I would meet myself in a few years or even vice versa if I would meet myself a few years back - would I even like myself? My teenage self would be this immature person who would probably totally irk me... But if I had met who i am now when I was a teenager, I'd probably think I am some boring person who spends way too much time doing housework and actually likes kids! (Well ok, not all kids, just my own :)
To make this all even weirder, the concept of time is only physical - there is no concept of time by Hashem - so how can He "remember" something in the past if there really is no past??

June 15, 2007 2:38 PM  
Blogger Bas~Melech said...

I'm with Allie here... I've always kind of wondered how we're supposed to view time if in reality it doesn't exist...

We need to use our perception of time as another tool to improve our service of HaShem. It's not so simple, though.

June 15, 2007 6:05 PM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

BM - in our reality, time does exist. in G-d's, it doesn't.

June 15, 2007 6:10 PM  
Blogger exsemgirl said...

Gosh a real deep one. I had to read it twice to truely get my head round it. Hang on are you saying that I didn't really remember it when i read it the second time? So why was it clearer?

"Instead every time you “remember” the event you formulate it anew in your mind. You make up a whole new scenario based on a suggestion of an occurrence." If you are in bed and just thinking and remembering where is the suggestion coming from?
And if all memories are not accurate how is it that we remember facts? And what of the supposed 'photographic memory?'

The whole theory seems to be a new and possible reality but at the moment I have too many questions to truely accept it though it seems to make logical sense.

June 16, 2007 4:16 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

allie...
good comment..I think I'd get along fine with my old self..I dont think Ive changed much..

As to understanding the whole time/god thing..
Think of the computer..
The chip/motherboard is where all the action is really happening. If we werent people that think in time and space we could I suppose just somehow get away with just the chip ..but since we are human we need a screen..where all the micro stuff going on in the chip plays out in a way that we can relate to and utilize..
Now ..think of God as the chip and the world Time/Space as the screen...and the pieces should fall into place..
I once did a post on this..
maybe I'll re-post it...

June 16, 2007 10:29 PM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

exsem...
gosh you raise excellent questions..
It seems your question revolve around how information interacts with memory. After all the information we retain are usually born of memories..
I dont know..

June 16, 2007 11:13 PM  
Blogger FrumGirl said...

Yay, MY kind of post! Yes, David it is sooooo true. And that is why I returned to blogworld with one last encore post earlier this year outlining that suggestion is perception. I didn't really expect people to think about it, but it was worth a shot. It is truly scary if one really thinks into that simple concept. I don't think you're wierd at all, as a poster wrote above. You are sensitive and most importantly you think. Unfortunately, many don't.

June 17, 2007 12:01 AM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

frumgirl - i was just teasing...

i don't think david's weird.
if you read the follow up to that sentence in that comment, you'd see why i said what i did...

:)

June 17, 2007 12:08 AM  
Blogger jewmaican20 said...

Whoa.
This explains a lot of things...
Thanks Dave. Some more stuff to think about...

June 17, 2007 1:36 AM  
Anonymous Allie said...

My question was more how we can ask God to remember something when for Him there is no concept of memory as there is no concept of time. But I guess I can really answer my own question - anything we ever daven for is really just the way we perceive things - obviously we can't understand things on God's level, so the only way for us to communicate with Him is through things that we can understand.. even if they don't really exist..

June 17, 2007 1:52 AM  
Blogger Bas~Melech said...

Dreamer -- imho, reality can only be one thing. This world is not Emes.

June 17, 2007 3:51 AM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

as much as Hashem is in our lives, that's how much emes is in this world.

who ever said this world is not emes?
an olam hafuch, maybe, but not emes?

we live in a world of our perception. that's why, as allie said above, we refer to G-d in human-like terms... we can't understand anything else. G0d created a reality for us, and we live in it. To say that it doesn't exist is falsehood... to say that it's ALL that exists in unrealistic... It exists cuz hashem willed it so.

:)

June 17, 2007 9:08 AM  
Blogger David_on_the_Lake said...

FG...
whoa...a blast from the past..
Yes..I now appreciate that post ever so more..
Sometimes..I think that being called weird during this day and age might be a compliment..
:-)

jewmaican...
Thanks..
:-)

allie...
Thats right..
Back to my analogy..Our idea of remembering which is obviously tied into the whole time/space reality..need not be Exactly Gods concept of remembering..and yet they can still be one and the same..

Dreamer and Bas_Melech...
Whatever happens in all the spiritual worlds happens in our reality..theyre not Separate entities...just as the chip is one and and the same as whats happening on the screen.
So its all reality..just customized to each world according to its perception..

June 17, 2007 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Allie said...

Dreamer - I didn't mean it doesn't exist literally. Too much to get into here, but if you've watched the matrix, you'll kind of get what I mean... Does any of this really exist? To answer that, David will have to do another post on what exactly the word "exist" means...

June 17, 2007 1:57 PM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

allie - i know.
i was reponding to basmelech...
nope, never watched the matrix...
:)

June 17, 2007 2:03 PM  
Anonymous Allie said...

Got it...
i'm going to hop over to your blog one of these days for a visit.. I checked it out last week and it looks pretty interesting...

June 18, 2007 12:12 AM  
Blogger The Dreamer said...

hey allie.
please do!
i love intelligent commenters...
:)

June 18, 2007 12:18 AM  

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