Monday, 19 October 2009

Alan Baker - The Book of Random Access (54)

[He] remembered not only every leaf of every tree of every wood, but also every one of the times he had perceived or imagined it. Forgetfulness might seem bliss, like falling asleep in a comfortable bed after physical work in the fresh air. If you find that difficult, it's something that can be learned. Simple breathing exercises can help, or meditation. Some people find that lavender oil, valerian or other herbs help them. In a prose piece, he envisages a School of Forgetting, where the pupils are taught in specialist fields, such as Forgetting History and Forgetting Language. In the lit room, the window pane is a black square, the streaks of rain are like little lines of glass beads. The modem is flickering, the printer is warming up. There is the case of “AJ,” a 40-year-old woman with incredibly strong memories of her personal past. Given a date, AJ can recall with astonishing accuracy what she was doing on that date and what day of the week it fell on. Because her case is the first one of its kind, the researchers have proposed a name for her syndrome – “hyperthymestic syndrome.” She had been called “the human calendar” for years by her friends and acquaintances. AJ is both a warden and a prisoner of her memories, said Parker, a clinical professor of psychiatry and neurology. They can at times be a burden because they cannot be controlled, but she told us that if she had a choice, she would not want to give them up.


Texts quoted:

Jorge Luis Borges, 'Funes the Memorious', from Labyrinths. - Source: University of California - Irvine, Hyper-Memory: The Inability To Forget, March 7, 2006.
Dennis Tomlinson, review of 'Five Poets from Saxony' (Shearsman), Tears in the Fence 46.

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