Just Merveilleux?

Life at № 42

How Well Can We Remember Someone’s Life after They Die? – Julia Shaw for Scientific American 

“Memory is often a social construction. Certainly in the context of grief, memories are often elicited and shared in group settings with family members and friends. Information is disclosed, information is absorbed, and memories change in the process.

According to psychological scientist Robert Neimeyer and his colleagues in 2014, grief involves “processes by which meanings are found, appropriated or assembled at least as fully between people as within them.”

After the death of a loved one we look for meaning, we create meaning, and in the process we often agree with others on what a person’s life must have been like. As Neimeyer and his colleagues say “a central task of grieving is the reconstruction of those narratives.” From my own research, I can tell you that these reconstructive processes can be very creative, covertly weaving compelling pieces of fiction into the story of a life.”

Source: How Well Can We Remember Someone’s Life after They Die? – Scientific American Blog Network

So we’ve got constructs, and constructs of constructs. And then constructs of those. I think I might simplify all of this by drowning Schrodinger’s cat.

It is fascinating, though. In recent correspondence with one of the four people I found on Facebook, I asked what their main impression of me as a child was. I expected I was going to be told quiet, distant, cold, or something along those lines. Instead I got: There was a pit-bull like quality to you. What’s that supposed to mean? I was taken aback. I know I’ve always been slightly abrasive, but that seems like an extreme characterisation.

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39 comments on “How Well Can We Remember Someone’s Life after They Die? – Julia Shaw for Scientific American 

  1. Steve Ruis
    August 11, 2017

    Ah, but a Merveilleux pit bull, ne’s pas?

    Knowing that memory is unreliable (and always has been) I started a little project while my parents were still alive. I sent them a list of questions I would ask them during an interview which I would tape record (all tapes digitized at this point). It went quite well, so well I repeated the exercise with my two sisters. On the tape you can hear repeated thuds … my jaw dropping low enough to hit the table. Everyone was quite forthcoming and I learned a great deal. These recordings have been distributed widely to the grand kids and I hope they will be listened to when “stories” become the only way to carry on someone’s memory. Of course, these are just stories, too, but they are illuminating and a way to remember people since gone.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 11, 2017

      Were the patterns she mentions in the article clearly visible? Where people “agreed” to the reality of a story?

      Like

    • acflory
      August 11, 2017

      I wish I’d done that with my parents. I was an ‘only’ so I only have my own, unreliable memories now.

      Liked by 1 person

    • kjennings952
      August 12, 2017

      Are you willing to share your questions? I would love to do this with my parents!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. foolsmusings
    August 11, 2017

    I think people’s memories in general are pretty shit. We remember a few details but mostly our brains fill in too many of the details. The older the memories are, the worse it is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 11, 2017

      I wonder how that happens? I have some memories which seem crystal clear, while others (sometimes even recent ones) are entirely fuzzy.

      Like

      • acflory
        August 11, 2017

        I read, somewhere?, that the brain doesn’t store memories as discrete objects at all but merely reconstructs them when needed. The strength of the memory depends upon how often we refresh it – i.e. revisit it. Revisiting and revising memories with others would have the same effect. That’s the theory.
        Like you, however, I have some memories that are pre-verbal and only triggered by certain smells. I can never /quite/ see what the memory is about but it’s powerful for the split second it lasts.
        I don’t think we’ve got the theory completely right just yet.

        Liked by 2 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        August 11, 2017

        Loading… Loading…
        Or do we have the theory? Does it all not look suspiciously like zeroes and ones? This post was intended to stray away from that but then between Anonymole and you, here we are again.

        Like

      • acflory
        August 12, 2017

        lol – I actually think there’s more to the reality of memory than zeros and ones! I just don’t know what it is or how to reconcile it with what is known. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Anony Mole
    August 11, 2017

    “… covertly weaving compelling pieces of fiction into the story of a life.” Great line.

    Is this how real become stranger than fiction? Our retelling of life actually /becomes/ fiction?

    Fables, folklore, fairy tales, myths of all kinds, all generally stem from some foundation in real life experiences (somewhen, way way long ago.) Is our retelling of the life of Grandpa and his crazy exploits the birth of such stories?

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 11, 2017

      Interestingly, have you noticed how retellings often conform to archetypal notions? The retelling having the primordial purpose of categorising the person (or sometimes ourselves) as a known role in the narratives that are familiar to us. Hero, victim, generous, uncaring etc. The characterisation seeming to be much more important than the actual facts.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Anony Mole
        August 11, 2017

        Seems a valid observation. I’m not sure how completely it’s implemented. Yet we are all stamped from the same social stencils, whatever that society or culture might be. Joseph Campbell comes to mind here… My question might be: can we create NEW stereotypes? (That has to be an oxymoron no?)

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        August 11, 2017

        But do we really need them (the mental shortcuts) as we did in primitive societies?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Anony Mole
        August 11, 2017

        We may need them even more today. Categorization of all things, these days, when the vast amount of data overwhelms us, is a skill we must all rely upon, no? Pattern matching, in not only our visual world, but our ideological world, (which inadvertently supports and builds our biases) must be honed continuously. Else we won’t be able to handle the influx of information.

        I wonder though, when we hit upon a truly NEW new, will be be able to create a novel pattern rather than pigeon hole it?

        Liked by 1 person

      • The Pink Agendist
        August 11, 2017

        I suppose you’re right. In fact we need better and more accurate measures.

        Like

  4. Steve Ruis
    August 11, 2017

    We are now discovering that memories are stored in fragments. The images are stored in the visual cortex, the sounds in the auditory cortex, etc. When a memory is triggered, it is reassembled by some executive function not yet fully understood to make the memory. The key point here is that the memory is made whole by filling blanks spaces with … filler, other memories, etc. There is not some video tape stored on some shelf with recorded sights, sounds, smells, etc.

    We are just starting to see what controls the longevity of memories but it seems that reinforcement is one aspect of that: the more often you recall something, the strong that memory gets, but unfortunately the more distorted it gets, too.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. appletonavenue
    August 11, 2017

    Fascinating article. Thanks so much for sharing. My sister has False Memory Syndrome. When she came up with this around 30 years ago, I did some research into memory. Very revealing stuff. The main thing I came away with was memories cannot be trusted. How we can lock people in prison for life because someone ‘remembers’ something or someone? I’d never get selected for a jury. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 11, 2017

      Wow! What effects did her syndrome have on people around her?

      Liked by 1 person

      • appletonavenue
        August 16, 2017

        It splintered the family and is one of the reasons I stopped speaking to my entire family for more than 10 years. I feel awful for her husband, for he must endure her endless litany of abuses perpetrated upon her. It is a truly awful condition.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. meethiflyer
    August 11, 2017

    In my opinion, everyone should write a book (or at least a teeny-weeny booklet) about his/her life before he dies!
    𝗖𝗵𝗲𝗰𝗸 𝗼𝘂𝘁 𝗺𝘆 𝗻𝗲𝘄 𝗮𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗹𝗲 𝗼𝗻 🎨 𝑨𝒓𝒕 𝑻𝒉𝒆𝒓𝒂𝒑𝒚 𝒇𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕𝒔 𝑫𝒆𝒑𝒓𝒆𝒔𝒔𝒊𝒐𝒏 🙅
    https://unpluggedcreations.com/2017/08/04/art-therapy-fights-depression/

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hariod Brawn
    August 11, 2017

    Everything we know is a memory, and yet is not what we think it is. Only the deluded think they have original thoughts. Still, impressions are created by our words and actions, loose correlations forged thereupon. I see your abrasiveness as fearlessness, which perhaps seems at odds with the anxiety thing, and it’s admirable.

    Liked by 3 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 11, 2017

      My abrasiveness was born out of the necessity to limit the cause of my anxiety (being constantly told to do things differently/conform.)
      Asserting myself means people have to make a cost/benefit assessment of if it’s really worthwhile to attempt to raise their position in the social hierarchy by attacking my position 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        August 11, 2017

        Would you say the abrasiveness is purely a defence mechanism, then, and am I off the mark suggesting it signifies/connotes a fearlessness? I do see you as quite unusually bold and fearless, and don’t think there’s any contradiction between those traits and anxiety/self-protection.

        Liked by 3 people

      • The Pink Agendist
        August 11, 2017

        No, not off the mark. I think I see the world through less filters, which gives the impression of being abrasive. But as I see it, it’s simply reality.

        Take the example of a good friend of mine who divorced a few years ago. She used to say her children were the most important thing in her life. But she left her home, husband and children to live with a man she barely knew. Pointing out the incompatibility of her statements isn’t abrasive, although that would be her position.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hariod Brawn
        August 12, 2017

        I suppose some people take frankness and forthrightness as being abrasive. That’s particularly true here in much of England, I think, where we rather dance around the possibility of offering our thoughts directly, clinging instead to our disingenuous politeness. Northerners do it less than Southerners.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Bela Johnson
    August 11, 2017

    Hmmm … This is a common conversation in my limited circles – how subjective memory is. I had 6 siblings, and if we were all to explain something that happened in our collective world as children, you would get 7 different stories. That everyone thought you were a pitbull? I can see intensity in the image you present here (your gravatar); depth of feeling. This might help, or it might not – I have my suspicions: https://www.enneagraminstitute.com/type-4/
    We all have our defense mechanisms, and others have their way of interpreting our energies.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 11, 2017

      I read through it. I don’t mean t dismiss it (I don’t know enough about it), but don’t you find the formatting and phraseology terribly similar to that used in cold readings and astrology?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Bela Johnson
        August 11, 2017

        I’ve been a student of the Enneagram since I was in my 30’s, and allow for various languages to interpret it. It’s an ancient psychospiritual system based on the sacred number 9. Thus Ennea (Greek 9) types, which do not change throughout our lives. We evolve ‘through’ that birth/given (arche)type. Astrology totally relies on the placement of the stars and other luminaries, presupposing nothing, ideally But those placements as they move in their orbits throughout our lives. Not sure what you mean by a ‘cold’ reading.

        I have a daughter who is an Enneagram Four, and you remind me a lot of her when reading your posts (and just looking at that image – it’s almost always in the eyes, for me). But hey, only in the interest of self knowledge do I share stuff like this. Not assuming anything, not my circus and all that. Cheers!

        Liked by 2 people

  9. john zande
    August 12, 2017

    Well, I did ride dragons as a child, herded clouds, danced with Shiva, played tabla with Nusrat Fateh ali Khan, brought peace to all enchanted woodland creatures, and taught sprites how to knit.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Arkenaten
      August 15, 2017

      Did you edit out the sheep shearing, then?

      Liked by 1 person

      • john zande
        August 15, 2017

        Well, as you already know, like all Australians, I was born with hand shears in motion, and an innate ability to grade wool by microns by smell alone.

        Liked by 2 people

  10. coteetcampagne
    August 12, 2017

    As a child I was rejected by and constantly reprimanded by my mother. Yes I am a thinly veiled basket case and do not deny it. No amount of theorising will make me as others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 12, 2017

      We all are 😉
      Perceived normality is simply the (high) frequency at which one is willing to emulate group behaviour.

      Like

  11. acflory
    August 13, 2017

    Serendipty. Just read this article on The Passive Guy blog:

    http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2017/08/the-mystery-of-s-the-man-with-an-impossible-memory/

    Real case of Russian man who could not forget and whose life was a parade of details.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. theoccasionalman
    August 16, 2017

    For a long time I figured that kids at school only thought of me as weird, or a source of useless trivia. Then a couple of years ago someone from high school found me on facebook and said that he valued the memory of our friendship because I was kind. I felt shocked and honored — someone finally thought of me the way that I want to be thought of, and had been thinking of me this way for fifteen years. I just didn’t know about it.

    Pit bulls I have known have been sweet, friendly dogs, lovers of luxury, but with a great deal of power that lies dormant. If you want that power to remain dormant, you have to take a firm hand with them. They’re only dangerous if you let them think they own you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Pink Agendist
      August 16, 2017

      Have you read What Belongs to You by Greenwell? Apparently it’s the new gay book of record.

      Like

  13. okay you question, what did he mean by saying as a child I was a pitbull. The first thing that came to my mind is that you were very stubborn. This brings back a memory, and I was really quite little. My mother was complaining to my grandmother, her mother in law either about my father or my brother and she said they were being stubborn. My grandmother said, and I never forgot this, “Stubborn people get things done.”

    A pit bull is generally thought of as aggressive, however that aggressiveness can be thought of in a different way, as simply being fearlessly stubborn. Do you think there was more than a little fearless stubbornness in you? This could have been acted out in a passive or shall we say sneaky way, not necessarily a screaming, door slamming 9 year old. There are various way to display stubbornness.

    That is what I thought of when I read pit bull, stubbornness. I’m actually a pretty stubborn person myself, being married you learn to give up a bit on our natural stubbornness to preserve the relationship.

    Like

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