Thankful I Can’t Remember

I had been sitting for what seemed an eternity in the waiting room at the doctor’s office for a routine checkup. Even my phone eventually left me bored, so I looked around for something else to occupy my mind, when I spotted the cover of TIME magazine for June 6.Brain stuff! Score! (Yes, I am a nerd.) Flipping to the featured article, I found the headline, “The Optimism Bias: Those rose-colored glasses? We may be born with them. Why our brains tilt toward the positive”The article, authored by a Mr. Tali Sharot, brought to my attention yet again what an amazing thing the human brain is. Researchers were surprised when people who watched the events of 9/11 could not remember key details. Only 63% of the time were their stories the same 11 months later as they were in that September of 2011.

Why? What causes the memory to commit so many errors? Isn’t the point of having a memory to be able to (with reasonable accuracy) recall events, details, people, etc.?

Sharot says no.

We are hardwired to dream a better future.

Scientists who study human memory propose that, “…the core function of the memory system could in fact be to imagine the future — to enable us to prepare for what has yet to come. The system is not designed to perfectly replay past events… it is designed to flexibly construct future scenarios in our minds.”

Our brains weren’t built to remember things as they were with perfect accuracy.
They weren’t meant to envision the future with crystal clarity.
And they certainly aren’t capable of understanding the present completely.

Could it be that our memory’s main function is to provide a context in which to hope? To give us props, scenery, smiling faces, music, a familiar house and arms to hold us when we dream? Is the memory but the theater in which our imagination can play?

I’ll take that over flawless recall any day.

I had to chuckle, there in the waiting room, when the article later implied that the mind which has the most realistic view of the future is actually mildly depressed. A healthy mind dares to hope for what might be illogical. A perfect memory might stop me from dreaming big, but thank goodness, even the memory can forget.

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