A friend from long ago contacted me today, having located me through this website. In the course of our emails my friend brought up a philosophical discussion that occurred some twenty-plus years ago.
The topic was Bobby Sands, the IRA activist who died in a 1981 hunger strike. My friend recounted the debate in which we once engaged, specifically referring to a political science professor I quoted as making the argument that "only extreme suffering can justify suicide."
Unfortunately, I can remember none of what must have been a lively debate. There is an empty space where this episodic memory ought to be stored.
Now, I might chalk this incident up as evidence of my own latent senilty were it not for the fact that a similar incident occurred with another friend, only I was the person in possession of the clear memory.
We were sitting around one day listening to music and engaging in spirited discussion over bands that contributed to the genre of swamp rock. I scoffed when my friend suggested The Hollies on the basis of the song "Long Cool Woman."
Several decades went by, and I heard the song on the radio a few years back. As I listened, I recalled the 1985 swamp rock debate, and sure enough I heard the song in a new light. While The Hollies themselves might not have been swamp rockers, "Long Cool Woman" was clearly a song that could be tagged as swamp rock.
My friend, however, was completely oblivious to such a debate.
Thus, I am musing about the exact determinants to what gets saved and what gets chucked in the human memory. Neither of these anecdotes was particularly life-changing, or even noteworthy, yet in each case one participant remembered the event clearly, while the memory of the event had long since been discarded by the other party.
Why should my brain retain a clear memory of some youthful conversation about swamp rock, while at the same time being seemingly incapable of recalling a similar debate about Bobby Sands? Better still, where did I put my car keys?