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Friday, March 04, 2011

We can forget it for you wholesale

It was meant to be just a night out with the boys, and bowling at that. But these were no ordinary chums, but a group of wayward dwarves. And where was the location of the bowling alley? How about that cloud on the left, just follow the thunder. Well, to old Rip, it seemed like he was there only a short time, but as they say, time flies when you’re having fun. And when he settled afterwards in a nap, time flew. Perhaps it was the nap, perhaps it was the game, but when he awoke, generations had past, and Rip Van Winkle, the loyal subject to the English crown woke to a new world, and a new United States. And so, with King George forgotten to all as was his kith and kin, he found his daughter, and passed his remaining days full of memories of simpler days when time had measure and substance and meaning.


Time is money, but time is also memory. In the past the argument to spend one’s time was pecuniary, in the future is may be regarded as the stuff of life. Without memory time vanishes, and when memory is truncated our lives lose meaning because meaning devolves into a void and a blur.

In Philip K. Dick’s novelette ‘We can remember it for you wholesale’ (later morphed into the movie ‘Total Recall’, time was memory, so that life seemed longer and certainly more interesting when your noggin was injected with fabricated memories. Unfortunately, we can’t add memories except through actually doing things, but we sure can eliminate them and speed up their passage. And now on the internet, we can do it wholesale!

Consider two mind experiments we inflict upon our minds all the time.

Time Erasure Experiment #1
You go to a party, and invariably meet a long line of your spouse’s friends, one by one they tell you their names, which or course you immediately forget.

Time Erasure Experiment #2
On Monday you begin playing Halo Fantasy XXIII on your computer. Blink your eyes, and its Tuesday.

In both experiments we are doing everything so quickly each short term memory is pushed aside by the next meaningful sight or sound before it can register in long term memory, so time flies because we literally can’t remember different times. In the first experiment, the memory loss is piecemeal; in the latter it is wholesale. This is why taking a break assists memory when it is a mere pause in behaving, but hinders memory when it is not a pause from behavior but a different behavior entire. Further, when memory falters, so does time, and we wonder when we are because we cannot recall where we have been.

Moral, when you go from daylight savings time to internet time, your time is not just spent, it is lost, and your life is shortened to that of a mayfly. So, if you’re not careful, you may wake up some morning and find out that you have a proverbial long white beard and live in the Peoples Republic of America.

(But of course if you don’t want to listen to this, you can just forget it!)

From 'One Track Minds', available on for free in July 2011

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