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|The Non-Remembrance of Things Past - Page 9|
So, with every one of your nooks and crannies rotting away, from kidneys to penis and back again, why on earth shouldn't your memory be fading, too? After all, your memory is nothing but a function of your mind, and your mind —a psycho-emotio-spiritual miracle of the highest order, to be sure—is nothing but a product of the workings of your brain, which is, when you come right down to it, just another biological organ in—another similarly-running-out-of-steam nook or cranny of—the same old aging physical body that's rotting away, day in, day out. Well, if your feet can break down, or your spleen, why can't your brain? Why should your brain—and therefore your mind, and your memory—be any more exempt from decay than the rest of you?
Because they should. Because, they are just . . . well, different. Physical decline is understandable in a way that memory loss is not. Admittedly, everything about how the body works is miraculous, almost science fictional: that a cut heals itself by replicating pre-wound cells, for example, is no less astounding than a wound in a horror movie which, with the magical assistance of time-lapse photography, heals itself in seconds. So, yes, everything is a mystery. But physical changes—a smaller bicep? a ratty lung? or, uh-oh, a tumor on the pancreas?—at least you can see them. (You can sometimes even touch them.)
But a memory? A feeling or a thought that's become part of you? What's that about? You can sort of "get" how electricity can illuminate a light bulb or turn a motor or heat up the hair dryer you no longer need, but electrical charges that travel along a neural pathway, stored somehow and then, somehow, retrievable time and time again in the form of mental images and feeling-states and notions? Sure. Absolutely. Crystal clear. (You've seen multicolored images showing how different mental functions activate different areas of the brain. But what exactly do these pictures show you except colored images of the brain supposedly in action?) If it's hard to picture how all those electro-physio-chemical events give birth to a memory, it's impossible to envision what the story is when that memory dies; mysterious to begin with, infinitely more so once gone.