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|The Non-Remembrance of Things Past - Page 8|
Can You at Least Remember When All This Forgetfulness Started?
"Remember"?!?! Get serious!
In high school English, you read Our Town, by Thornton Wilder, a play whose action unfolds in Grover's Corners, a storybook town in New Hampshire as alien to everything you were growing up in as it was somehow identical. No work of art had ever so shaken your adolescent sense of immortality. And it did so, simply and powerfully, by conveying the transcendent beauty of everyday life: how unseen the gift of merely being alive is, and how inevitably that unappreciated gift must come to an end.
One line in particular sent chills through you. The omniscient Stage Manager sets the stage for Act Two by telling the audience that, during intermission. three years have passed, so that "a number of people who thought they were right young and spry have noticed that they can't bound up a flight of stairs like they use-ta, without their hearts flutterin' a little. All that can happen in a thousand days." When you first came across that line in 10th grade, you wondered, "When does that take place, that transition to a weaker body? Thirty to thirty-three? Forty-one to forty-four?" Well, you now know that, at least for you, those thousand days took place in your fifties.
But what you didn't know in 10th grade was that there'd also come a day when you wouldn't be able to bound up and down the flight of stairs called "memory" like you used to. The realization that that day, too, has come is equally chilling.
What Does Science Say About All This Forgetfulness?
Science says, "You shouldn't be surprised."
It was the Stage Manager who taught you that, one day, your heart would be fluttering at the top of a flight of stairs and, by implication, one day, the rest of you would fall apart as well. (You're well on your way. "One day" is here. No matter how much you go to the gym, the Stage Manager was right: you still wheeze your way up that flight of stairs. Your skin is losing its resiliency. Your hair has long since fallen out. Too many of your clothes no longer fit. Without glasses, you have to hold a book no further than two inches from your face. Digestion and elimination functions have . . . well, "changed." Your knees hurt. Your old driver's license shows a man whom you no longer recognize. The guy on your new driver's license looks even stranger.)