President's Message January 2019

Memory

I can clearly remember the day when, aged 4, I fell into a pond. I can remember the blue sky looking up, how my feet slipped on slimy leaves and I fell repeatedly in trying to get up. It is as though I were still there. Yet it is over 70 years ago and I have not thought about it for over 40 years until my sister recently asked about this often repeated family story from before she was born.

I have a friend who has a complete visual memory of the physical details of her classroom on her first day of school. I can only remember that on this long awaited day (when I knew I would be grown up) that the girl next to me was in tears and I could not understand why. I have no other memory of that day at all.

It is amazing that a collection of atoms form into brain neurons which in some way imprint and contain our memories. The actual process is not understood and when it is discovered it may increase our sense of wonder rather than diminish the mystery.

The brain which (in most cases) could be held inside two hands enables us to learn to dance and sing, remember complex musical arrangements and an enormous variety of combinations of all three. In addition we are able to contemplate the extremely small but still to lift our gaze to the vastness of space (which makes my head hurt). Please don’t talk about quantum mechanics!

“Memory is the mother of all wisdom” Aeschylus (525-455 BC)

One of the beauties of our memory is that it can fade. PTSD sufferers long for forgetfulness, to relieve them from the constant mental re-enactment of their trauma.

Forgetting also means we can learn the same thing over and over as though it was new. I just wish my forgetting did not include the inability to remember names which is more distressing to me than forgetting my keys!

To me all learning includes a remembering of old things which the new can refresh and enlarge.

Three quotes again from Aeschylus sum up the joy of learning for me “Even the old should learn”, “To learn is to be young forever.” and “Learning is ever in the freshness of its youth, even for the old”.

So bring your razor sharp or very foggy memory to U3A in Term1 2019. There is sure to be something to interest you in our new program.

Jocelyn