Memory is a key component of our personality. What you have learned from your experiences — good and bad — makes you the person you are.
Sometimes we take memory for granted. Most people are able to learn large amounts of information when they are young. As a baby, we learn to understand and then speak a language. School allows us to learn all about the world around us.
But as we age, sometimes our memories start to fail. We might struggle to come up with a word. Or forget where we put the car keys.
This memory loss progresses even more in some cases, like with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Family members, forced to watch a loved one lose all of their memories, often describe it as losing the individual.
But is it true that it is solely our memories that make us who we are? If someone suffers an injury and loses some memories, do they truly cease to be the person they were before?
If it is true that our memories define us, what are the consequences of that? For example, if someone is able to plant some false memories in someone else, does that constitute a crime?
Studies show that what you remember — or think you remember — can be influenced by others. For example, people who witnessed a crime might be uncertain about some of the details, like what the assailant was wearing. But if even one person reports seeing a red shirt, then eventually everyone might become convinced they saw a red shirt. Does that mean our personalities are not as fixed as we might like to believe?
While turkey is the traditional Thanksgiving dish, not everyone likes it. Some people prefer ham, or some other protein. Yes, I know I’ve left out our vegetarian friends, so what about tofurkey or seitan?
Throughout this entire year, it feels like we have been waiting for something. For the virus to be vanquished. For racial justice tensions to be meaningfully addressed. Or for the presidential election to be completed.
None of those things have been completed; still we wait.
Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What are you waiting for?’ We also discuss another question as well, ‘Are science and religion compatible?’
But in a larger sense, it is easy to wait for something coming juuuust around the corner. Once it happens, life can begin.
Once you graduate from high school, you can get on with your life. A romantic partner would make things complete. That raise at work will make everything worthwhile. After the kids leave the house, we can do all the tings we have wanted to get around to.
Eventually, life marches on, if you are waiting for something or not. And yet, the allure of something big just over the horizon is very appealing.
What about you? Is there something in your life that needs to complete before you can move on to the next thing? What are you waiting for?