Skip to content

What About This…? 10.16.2014

By Wayne William Cipriano

How does memory work? They tell us it is all psychochemical.

They say that different percep­tions exciting different neural path­ways produce different chemical compounds that are somehow stored and accessed appropriately in our brains. When these compounds are retrieved they replicate those mental images and perceptions and we re-experience them in a much “diluted” form and call them memories.

Or maybe it is some other process, I cannot remember. I do know the big mystery is not how memories are formed but how we retrieve them.

Anyway, you have to wonder how a memory like Dr. Dan, the Bandage Man lingered for at least 50 years between the last time I remembered it and today.

It was one of my favorite books as a child and I can even vividly recall what the cover looked like. Dr. Dan … was a story about a very young boy with medical aspirations who went about treating all his injured friends (and all the injured animals in his neighborhood) by placing bandages on cuts and scrapes they had sustained in the rough and tumble world children, and pets, used to thrive within. Now, those times seem to be a figment of a long lost past. How scraped can a kid get playing video games at the mall?

I do not know what triggered that memory but it came back like gang­busters and I am sure as I can be that I haven’t recalled it since early childhood.

There are many faculties that op­erate within us that contribute to the progress human beings have made over the last 100,000 years or so. With some humor, when physical and cultural anthropologists gather, they often remind us our thumbs and our brains are how we went from living in trees to living on the moon in the same time frame other ani­mals slightly changed their size or their color patterns.

But while thumbs are important and the brain is so general as to be useless as an explanation, memory = recalling with accuracy and speed what has happened to us – must be as important if not more important than even intellectual prowess.

Learning is impossible without memory, and learning is what got us out of the trees. Now, what about this. . . “This human faculty (fill in the blank) is what allows our mem­ories and our learning to benefit those who come after us.”

As Tribeck says on Jeopardy ‘be sure to make your response in the form of a question, Cousin Billy.