UK-compost-pileSteve was certain the story he was telling was true.

Laughing with all certainty, his larger-than-life tales about our “college days” are hilarious.

Unfortunately, the more he tells them, the more he’s wrong. The characters, the place and the time were certainly not part of my memory in regard to his bombastic review.

Over the years, the stories my friends recite about their recollection of past events are becoming questionable. In all fairness, maybe mine are subject to scrutiny and yours are too.

I don’t mean to offend anyone with eidetic faculties. In fact, some in my circle continue to surprise me daily bringing up sentences from the past – so we’re not all the same.

However, in his book, “The Self Illusion,” Bruce Hood makes a case that some people regard memory as an accurate recording of experiences.

“Psychologists Dan Simons and Chris Chabris recently surveyed 1,500 U.S. adults and discovered fundamental misunderstandings held by the general public. Two out of three adults (63%) thought that memory works ike a video camera, recording experiences that can be played back later.”

Faced with the possibility memories fade with age, we’re forced to recognize – instead of imprinting our minds with a factual and indelible database – our memories – as Hood alludes to in his book are more like a compost pile.

Our lives are certainly a rich garden of experiences.

Under the heat of the sun our adventure, sadness, failures, hope, love and all of the human conditions bloom like a thousand…billion episodes. Moving forward, the moments are stashed, processed, slept on, recalled and worked over and over again.

Without thinking, we’re raking those memories onto a mountain that exists somewhere between this very moment and yesterday.

And just like a compost pile, the heat of the day, the changing seasons will bake, steam and disintegrate any organic material right back into the ground around us – a fertile place indeed.

It’s not uncommon to hear older storytellers admit their memories are failing – turning to mush. In fact, our worst fears are the loss of memory – particularly ahead of our own physical atrophy in the case of Alzheimer’s.

My treaty is not an existential opinion. Instead, it’s important to consider the brevity of this possibility as it relates to our own telling of stories.

Who knows, just like fine wine – perhaps are stories get better with age as the fertilizers of past and present mix in the form of language?


Interestingly, Memory has a place among the Gods of Greek mythology.

Mnemosyne was the daughter of Oruanos (Heaven) and Gaia (The Earth). With one foot in heaven and another in time, she was also the Mother of the nine muses – which bring so much joy to our existence.

In the stories about Mnemosysne, there’s a river in Hades called Lethe. It’s here that spirits pass through that erases memory as souls on to the afterlife and ultimately reincarnation.

That’s at least refreshing to me as it relates to the divine comedy of errors we make when we recall our past experiences.

Perhaps our inability to recite accurate interpretations in the past is simply a river of rain, tears from hueaven running under the compost?

Memory, hither come,

And tune your merry notes;
And, while upon the wind
Your music floats,

I’ll pore upon the stream
Where sighing lovers dream,
And fish for fancies as they pass
Within the watery glass.

I’ll drink of the clear stream,
And hear the linnet’s song;
And there I’ll lie and dream
The day along:

And, when night comes, I’ll go
To places fit for woe,
Walking along the darken’d valley
With silent Melancholy.

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