Panta Rhei

24 Jun 2012

Jonah Lehrer for Wired Magazine:

In the past decade, scientists have come to realize that our memories are not inert packets of data and they don’t remain constant. Even though every memory feels like an honest representation, that sense of authenticity is the biggest lie of all.

Every time we recall an event, the structure of that memory in the brain is altered in light of the present moment, warped by our current feelings and knowledge

Life is coloured by life. It has long been known that we understand new experiences in relation to old ones, but memory is proving to be so much more complicated: we cannot recall our yesterdays without having those events altered by our todays. There are no absolute histories. We have memories and then memories of those memories, built upon each other until we are so disconnected from the original happening that we can hardly claim to have experienced them in any meaningful way. We have been changed, not only by the incidents themselves, but also by our recollections of them.

Put another way, everything continues to flow — the river, the bank it runs along, and the being that steps into it — not only while we are in the water, but also long after we believe that we have moved on.