A Simple Overview of the Memory
Memory or remembrance, it may seem, is but a very common and easily understood word. The only reason for this is that it resides in our selves and can therefore be easily identified. When, for instance, we are able to recall the dog, the car, or the house that we have caught sight of somewhere moments ago, we tend to say that we have a good memory. In The Merriam-Webster’s electronics dictionary, the word “memory” is briefly defined as the power or process of remembering, or, the store of things remembered. The Random House Webster’s dictionary defines “memory” as the mental ability to keep and recall facts, events, or experiences.
Anyone void of memory is definitely in a state of total paralysis. Each of us has, since our birth, been endowed with a brain in which we can store our memory. This explains why we have since birth been able to store everything our parents have taught us in our brains as memory. An infant learns how to keep his body in a state of balance so that he can sit, stand, and walk. He then learns to imitate the various sounds so that he is able to express words. Next, he learns the meanings of the various sounds and the meanings that the various combinations of these sounds convey. This way he is able to understand what the other person means by the series of sounds, commonly known as sentences. This is how man first attains his ability to converse with each other at the age of two. Today, however, because everything has been running automatically and naturally, we tend to forget that all that we have managed to attain is in fact a result of the hardship we have been undergoing to get everything recorded in our brains as memory.
Do you still remember the time when you were at school, learning the alphabets, and then combining them to form words, and later writing and arranging these words to form sentences? Not only this, you also learnt the meanings of the words and the meanings they would convey when arranged to form a sentence.
Today, however, everyone seems to be able to write meaningful sentences quickly and without much effort. Why? Because we have the ability to store the data of the alphabets, the words derived from their combination, and the sentences, with all the meaning they convey, derived from the combination of these words. It is thus no surprise that we are now able to communicate well with each other, both orally and in writing.
As memory is not confined to what we have just described above, let’s now take a look at the process by which it is formed.
Man, like all other entities, is affected by the various forms of influences coming from outside his body. Our senses are receptive to the various objects, be they solid, liquid, or gaseous; the various molecules; the various sounds; the various light waves, etc.
Our eyes receive stimuli from the various light waves; our ears from the various sounds; our nose from the various gas molecules; our tongue from the various molecules of both solid and liquid objects; and our skin from the various objects and changes in temperature and humidity.
In fact, there are numerous other stimuli from external conditions that our senses are able to receive, though admittedly, however, there are also lots of those that are simply beyond the receptive capacity of our senses. Any external stimuli that our senses are able to receive are further passed on by our nerves to our brains as impressions.
Under normal circumstances, these impressions are, where conditions permit, stored in our brains as memory. Thus, it shouldn’t surprise us if we can at this very moment remember the things we had once seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched.
Our senses are not the only ones that can provide such impressions and store them as memory. In fact, all inner parts of our cells are able to transmit impressions to our brains, where they are then stored as memory. This explains why we are able to recall the various pains, stiffness, and sprains, etc. that come from within our bodies.
If all that our memory can do is to store the various data from inside and outside our bodies, we are indeed justified in saying that it functions as no more than mere data storage. The fact, however, is that it can also recall whatever we have recorded in our brains. And, as it turns out, our memory can also store the various results of the workings of the brain. It has the ability to remember any process of changing, combining, creating, separating, and deleting images from the various impressions that we have just performed. Thus, it has the ability to remember not only those impressions originating from our senses and our whole bodies but also those that originate from our brains themselves.
Memory is not something that belongs solely to human beings; almost all mobile living creatures, such as animals, have memory, as it is essential for them to survive.
Compared with ours, the ability of the memory of animals is, of course, of a lesser degree—naturally varying from one animal to another. This, however, does not necessarily mean that man’s memory must have all the ability that the memory of animals has. As the impressions are delivered by different senses and bodies, they are subsequently stored as different memories. Being able to send out and receive ultrasonic sound waves—things which human beings are incapable of doing— some animals are thus able to store the impressions of these sound waves as their memory.
Human beings, because they have vocal cords, are able to send out a variety of sounds or speak as a means of communicating with each other. Human beings, because of the very form of their upper limbs (the arms, hands, fingers), have the advantage of being able to leave inscriptions on stones, wood, papyrus, and today, on paper as well as in other modern means of data storage wherefrom their descendants can learn about the past.
That man is able to learn about the things left by his forebears should, therefore, not surprise us: By his ownership of such bodily facility and memory, he is equipped with the ability to store data both inside and outside his brain.
Not only this. For the man of today, recalling those data stored outside his brain is not the only ability he possesses; he also has the ability to process them. The computer, a modern piece of equipment, is one example of this. Extremely efficient, isn’t it? Admittedly, however, many animals too have the ability to leave data outside their bodies, though this ability of theirs is by far inferior to that of man. Of course, it has taken man an extremely long time, probably hundreds of years, to achieve such competence as he has today.
Let’s take a look at one simple example:
Human knowledge at the very beginning of time could be depicted as the top of a hill, while what we have today is like the foot of the hill. Tools and equipment have also developed accordingly. And so has machinery (combination of apparatus).
Let us take a glance at an ordinary object we use in daily life: a nail. Producing a good nail is a long process as it begins with the mining of the ore which has first to be processed into metal rods, before it ends in special machines where it is turned into nails. But, we should not forget the fact that these machines are also made by other machines. And their parts are also made by different machines, and so on. It is obvious here that to make just a nail, a very simple object of such quality as it is today, we need hundreds or perhaps thousands of units of machines, tools, and equipment. More than that, it has taken man a very long time to be able to come up with the current version of the nail as things evolve along with the development of the human brain. If people all over the world were to make a nail, with all the knowledge they have, without all the existing machinery, tools and equipment, it would probably take them more than ten generations to do so.
Do you realize that all those works of man that stand before you are in fact the works of our memory? Do you realize that it is only because of your memory that you are able to do what you are doing now? You are able to think, understand, and do whatever you are doing, because you have memory. Can you imagine what would happen to all of us if we had no memory?
Perhaps all of us would be in a state similar to that of those people who are suffering that fatal Alzheimer’s Disease that has caused them to lose their memory.
Apart from all these, there is another extraordinary scientific ability that man’s memory has, which is why we have entitled this book “The Omniscience of Memory.” There is not a single entity that knows this universe more than memory, particularly the human memory.
To understand this extraordinary ability of memory, let’s peruse for a while an article entitled “The Deceptive Nature of Memory,” which was written by the author of this book. The article elaborately discusses how man, by his possession of memory, has misconceived the universe and how the exposure of this misconception has led to the exposure of the incredible ability possessed by the memory of living creatures, man in particular. The discussions about memory here begin from man’s misconception of “time.”
Let’s now approach the subject slowly and cautiously.
In essence the article attempts to explain how, by his memory, man has come to develop the various misconceptions of this universe. It also shows blatantly how, by an in depth exploration into all these misconceptions, we are made to be aware of the extraordinary ability of the memory that living creatures, particularly human beings, have. It is from these very misconceptions man has of “time” that our discussion starts.
Let’s now discuss the article.