On Memories

Memories are strange, for lack of a better term. Sure, there are plenty of terms that describe aspects of our memory, but fallible is one of the more accurate ones, that’s why a witness’s recollection is so easy to dismiss in court. Memory is also incredibly fickle, being subject to change at a moment’s notice. In this dynamic respect, memory is likely the least helpful of all our cognitive functions, except the part of your brain that compels you to constantly overthink every small detail of something, that part can fuck right off. I’m sure you’re eternally grateful to your memory when you remember the correct answer on a test, followed by cursing it for not recalling the answer to the next question.

The mind is constantly changing memories, old or new. Your brain starts to change your memories as soon as your done experiencing the event, then the next time you remember the same memory, you’re remembering the recollection, not the original experience. Like a mental game of telephone, each time you remember something that memory is altered slightly. We imbue our memories with more meaning and significance than they had in the moment, reframing them from different positions, adding/subtracting details, changing the setting, inferring information we didn’t previously have access to. In short, we dramatize the moments in our lives as though they were scenes from a movie, continuously remaking this one film throughout our entire lives. A childhood memory isn’t reflected upon at 20 the same way it is at 70. Our brains are directors that spend their whole life reworking and editing their magnum opus, like they’re never satisfied with the reality, feeling the need to inject story elements where there are none.

There are some memories that stick with you as if they’re permanently etched on to the inside of your skull. The memory equivalent of the cave paintings of Lascaux. I’m unsure if these memories stick with me because they altered the course of my life in some way, or I remember them because they resonated with who I was. Maybe these memories were just particularly traumatic or large in the course of my life and have no special significance.

I remember a fishing trip I took with my father one time. We caught a fish but instead of hooking it through the cheek, the fish had swallowed the hook and it got lodged in its throat (or whatever the fish equivalent of a throat is). I don’t remember who caught the fish, but I think it was me. We tried for several minutes to remove the hook, but eventually, we realized we had to give up on it and threw it back. The fish flopped around for a few minutes before finally dying. I was completely mesmerized, I watched it struggle until it laid still, side-ways and wide-eyed. It may be cliché, and hypocritical, to imbue this moment with meaning, given what I wrote earlier, but I think this moment stands out in my memory as the moment I recognized the fragility of life. A single moment of no pomp or grandeur could mean the death of any life. That moment could be a single second or an eternity, with the only guarantee of death being no guarantee in how it happens.

Another moment sticks out in my mind as one of my more prominent memories, the moment I found out my brother had been in a car crash. I remember being in class, but I don’t remember what the teacher was talking about, who was there, or what the classroom looked like, I just remember that I was there. I don’t believe people when they say they can recall small details about a scene right before a big moment happened. I already mentioned how the brain creates small details to add life to a scene, but it’s also unlikely people recall these small details because they weren’t paying special attention to them, and it’s a strong possibility that whatever happened next overshadows all other details of that day.

I know I was called to the office, which I was probably happy about. Understand that at that moment I knew nothing about my brother’s wellbeing, so any kid hearing they were being checked out, especially for no discernable reason (i.e. doctor’s appointment, etc.) would probably be ecstatic. I packed up my things, probably beaming at the idea of going home early (I never cared for school), and made my way down the hall. The school office was around the right-hand corner of the hall (funny how I remember that one aesthetic detail), so my mother was waiting for me at the end of the hall. As I got closer I was unnerved to see she was crying. When I got to the end of the hall my mother told me what happened.

I remember this scene very differently. What I’ve told you so far was a deduction of what must have happened according to anecdotal pieces of my memory, and my knowledge of my past self, things that I can know with some degree of certainty are true. I remember smiling, followed by that smile disappearing into a worried expression as soon as I saw my mother crying, then running towards here in a panic. Followed by several smaller events I’m sure adds more drama to the scene. Now I have the luxury of understanding that moment in full context, thus the ability to imbue it with more significance than it may have warranted at the time. Perhaps that’s the point of reflection, to give understanding and importance to moments that seem frivolous in the moment. After all, didn’t these moments have profound effects on me, but I was unable to fully interpret it as such then and there? You can’t say definitively if reflecting on memories is good or bad, I think it’s more dependent on the types of changes you make. What details did you add? Are those details based in any truth? Did something actually happen like you remember it? Are you adding overtly biased details? But when you start getting this intricate and suspicious of which parts of your memory are true or false, it’s best to go ahead and close this line of thought before driving yourself crazy with doubts about your experiences.

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The History of Halloween

The history of Halloween is a weird mixture of ancient traditions, political gain, propaganda, and cultural mixing.

If you asked people to tell you where Halloween came from you likely wouldn’t get a solid answer. Most people who do answer confidently are likely to tell you it originated from the practices of druids or Satanists before being spun into a benign, commercialized, holiday. In actuality, these assumptions couldn’t be further from the truth.

Halloween originated with the Celtic holiday of Samhain which began on October 31st. The Celts believed the year was broken up into four distinct sections and followed a pattern of death and rebirth each year, with November 1st commencing the new year. Samhain was partially to celebrate the harvesting of the crops for the winter and the recalling of herds back to stables.

Maintaining the belief that this was a time of death and rebirth, the Celts also believed that on the 31st the barriers separating the world of the living and the world of the dead were at their weakest, allowing spirits and people to interact with each other.

The Celtic people believed that the souls of people who died that year would pass on while spirits from previous years would come back to interact with the living. They lit bonfires both to guide recently deceased spirits to the next life while warding off malevolent spirits. Sometimes participants would wear masks to hide their appearance from spirits, but the practice of wearing costumes would not become standard practice until much later.

It was also believed that magic, notable divination, was especially strong during Samhain. There were various practices developed with the hope of predicting the faiths of lives, relationships, harvests, and family life. One practice involved holding a mirror while walking backward to the basement, the face they would see in the mirror would be their next lover.

A sizable portion of Europe still practiced pagan traditions. To combat this the Catholic church began supplanting traditional pagan holidays with newly formed Christian holidays. The church tried to replace Samhain with All Saints Day, a holiday dedicated to all Christian saints who didn’t already have a holiday dedicated to them.

In addition to replacing their holidays, church missionaries began to label parts of the Celtic religion as evil. Druids became devil and demon worshippers, the Celtic gods became associated with demons, and the Celtic underworld became synonymous with hell.

Despite the church’s best efforts the traditions and celebration prevailed, despite being transformed. Now October 31st hosted ghosts, witches, demons, fairies, and a slew of other creatures. These creatures were also now seen as entirely malevolent. Eventually, people began leaving out food or drink to appease these malicious creatures with the hope that the creature would take pity on them.

As time went on people began dressing as these creatures and would go door to door putting on shows or harassing people in exchange for food and drink. These customs were mostly constrained to Ireland and Scotland. In England people would give out “soul cakes” and people (usually people in the lower classes) would go “a’ soulin’” for these cakes.

The next few decades were rough for Halloween. After the Protestant Reformation began, England mostly stopped celebrating the holiday. Since Halloween is the eve of All Saints Day, and the new religion did not believe in saints, most didn’t see any purpose in celebrating all together, despite Halloween by this point largely being neither pagan nor Christian.

In the early American colonies, the celebration of Halloween was mostly outlawed in part because of the church’s propaganda becoming truth for some people and the large amounts of vandalism that usually occurred that night.

Halloween didn’t come to America until the mid 19th century when a large number of Irish immigrants came to America. The holiday was mostly the same in America as it had been in Ireland at the time.

The commercialization of Halloween didn’t start until the early 1900s, with costumes and decorations appearing in the 1930s. To combat the vandalism that often occurred on Halloween night, people and government leaders began labeling Halloween as an exclusively children’s holiday. By the 1950’s the custom of trick-or-treating was nearly unanimous and the holiday was now considered only for children. With the exception of adult Halloween parties, traditions have largely remained the same since.

Ty Davis can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @tydavisACW.

Daily Journal Challenge: 6/19/17

Prompt: What do you hope to gain from doing this journal?

 

Answer:

Significantly better writing composition skills.

Daily Journal Challenge: 6/18/17

Prompt: What is something you could be good at if you had enough time to practice?

 

Answer:

Essentially anything, I mean… isn’t that how practicing works, at least in theory.

Daily Journal Challenge: 6/17/17

Prompt: What consumes most of your time?

 

Answer:

If not reading then watching youtube or biking. I read every chance I can get and I usually watch a lot of youtube. I don’t really watch a lot of tv or movies because youtube is so easily accessible and just sit down and watch mindlessly. Biking is definitely up there since I have to bike everywhere I go.