Wednesday, December 11, 2002

My Deprived Childhood

Human memory is very fallible. We don't know what actually happened although we think we do. Our memory makes shit up.

I remember reading about this study once…they asked people immediately after the Challenger blew up what they were doing when they first heard about it and recorded the results. A year later, they asked people what they had been doing when the Challenger blew up. Although these people’s memories had completely changed, they felt confidence in their false memories.*

Run some experiments on yourself and your friends.

I simply can’t tell if I remember what I heard about that study correctly, of course. Come to think of it didn’t the Challenger blow up because someone forgot to do something important? Put in the right O-rings? Make sure the O-rings didn’t break from dramatic temperature change?

So it isn’t just me. This isn’t comforting since I know that surgeons can forget to take out the surgical instruments, the architect can forget to put the right supports in the building, etc. But at least I feel less peculiar.

I’m afraid to have a baby. What if I forget it somewhere? What if I ‘leave it on the bus’ as that supposedly hilarious T-shirt said? (not because it is ugly)

What if I leave it on top of the car like that guy did in ‘Raising Arizona’?

My aunt left my cousin on the bus once when he was a toddler. It all turned out fine. Well, sort of. He did do some time in prison later on but perhaps that wasn’t related.

We can’t be sure of anything that we remember. We are living in the perpetual present. I run across things I wrote on the internet and sometimes wonder: Is someone impersonating me? It sounds like me but I didn’t write it! That’s how bad it is.

My inability to be attentive to the actual present moment is a bit unnerving since the present moment appears to be all I can be sure of. Where do I put things? I never can find anything. It is like my past self is my worst enemy—shopping for food I don’t want to eat, putting my keys in unlikely places, leaving dirty clothes on the floor, forgetting to pay the bills, etc. Worst of all she isn’t doing the work that will ensure a steady income to my future self.

It’s as if she doesn’t give a damn about ME the person who has to clean up her mess. I would beat her up but she’s already gone.

Luckily, we have technology to remember for us. All the missed moments can be recorded…as well as what we are supposed to do later on. Hopefully we will remember where we put this information. But when we don’t—isn’t it a nice surprise sometimes?

Oh, but wait. I forgot that I was about to write on my deprived childhood. The main thing about my deprived childhood was the lack of television. Other people have television-based triggers to remind them of childhood but all I have are recollections of watching TV at the homes of others. My best friend Holly’s mom took care of me after school and we would watch old TV shows together on the couch while Holly got mad that I liked her mom better. I remember her father Larry getting very annoyed when I cried over an episode of “I Love Lucy.” Ricki’s anger towards Lucy disturbed me deeply. I was not hardened by frequent TV watching, I suppose.

The problem is that I would have to pretend to have watched particular episodes of shows in order to have something to talk about with other kids the next day at school. Often, I had seen one or two episodes and could reconstruct what might have happened so that I could fake it. But there were whole shows I wasn’t familiar with and simply imagined…very vividly…Later, I remember them as if I had actually seen them. Occasionally, a re-run will come on and I will be shocked at the difference between what I thought the show would be like and how it in fact truly was.

Other people have all this television nostalgia that I don’t get to share. I do have a very vivid memory of reading the Book of Job as a child…but that’s not the kind of thing you can bond about with others.

I caught up a lot in college but it wasn’t the same thing.

If you think your child might be better off if you deprive him of television—I have news for you. My sister and I (who were part of the De Abejas family pre-television era) are rendered helpless by the hypnotic power of television. If it is on we are unable to move from the spot…transfixed by its power and beauty. Watching television is so horribly fascinating and pleasurable that I honestly cannot have one near me.

(*Note to el chico: This doesn’t mean that I’m not RIGHT when we disagree about ‘what actually happened’ or that we should never have these arguments due to epistemic uncertainty. It’s just one more reason we need a video camera with sound…Don’t you think? Also, if it was on at the right times, then I could find my keys later.)


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