I have two brothers and a sister. The four of us were together recently. The gathering was for our oldest sister’s funeral. These are always times for remembering. We talked and told stories. As always, it was an interesting experience because it sometimes seems like we didn’t grow up together. We talk about a given memory of a given event and it was almost like we weren’t at the same event. We all remembered different things about it.
In a recent conversation with a friend who has been studying the science of the brain, I discovered that the mind remembers in snap-shots. And they are not taken with a wide-angle lens.These images are rather narrowly focused and there is limited peripheral vision. Because the brain has a series of still photo that are connected to any given memory, we have to create a narrative around the images to make sense out of them.
I think the narrative that is developed around the snap-shots is strongly effected by the emotional impact of the event. For one person, the event might have been very painful. For another it might have been deeply confusing. For yet another, it might have had little emotional impact. When we sit around and remember together, the narratives we create around the particular events becomes the truth about what happened. And we can argue about whose memory is closest to the actual reality of the event.
But, I am not sure arguing is the best way to use our time. I don’t have to be right. What I want to do is to stretch my understanding of our past with the narratives and perspectives of my siblings. What was in my peripheral vision may have been the center of the photo for my sibling. If I am able to see more clearly the snap-shot that they have captured, and if I can understand better the narrative they have created around the photo, I can develop a deeper appreciation for the complexity and rich texture of the life we lived.
And who knows, I may even adapt my narrative and gain more insight into the way I act and the way I feel.