On Memory and Storytelling

I’m working on a memoir, and the excerpt below from Melanie Rae Thon inspires me. I’ve read recent research on memory that reveals how fluid and flexible our remembered stories are. Every time we tell or write a memory, we change it. When we put it back into storage, we store the changed version. And then, because it is “my memory” of the event, we believe it to be absolutely accurate. And we are wrong.

As author Tom Spanbauer says, “Every time we open our mouth, we lie. But it’s the lie that tells the truth.”

The Heart Breaks, and Breaks Open: Seven Reasons to Tell a Story in 2011

“I believe storytelling is a human impulse, not a choice, but a necessity. Unlike the old idea that memories are “wired” in the brain, synapses seared for (almost) all time, current research indicates that “reactivating a memory destabilizes it, putting it back into a flexible, vulnerable state.”

In other words, every time you remember an episode of your life, you are reinventing it: embellishing, deleting, altering it through fusion and imagination.

If you cannot imagine, you cannot remember.

There is no such thing as “I.”

Re-membering is transformation!

Every person on this earth is a storyteller.

Our memories are shifting collages, narratives spun from fragments, a ceaseless flow of images and associations, an explosion of sensory impressions, a web so splendidly complicated we have no hope of translating experience into language.

Yet we persist in trying to do so.

Every living being, human and more-than-human, is an infinite mystery.

Every moment of love is filled with the love of a lifetime.”

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