Hence, the Green Monster

One of the things I love about Nick is how much he remembers, about our nation’s history in particular, but also just random bits of information. This postcard totally delighted me: the fact that it was sent into Yankees territory, the history/trivia, the “In conclusion,” and the rays of light emanating from the date at the bottom right that I didn’t see until the second reading (causing me to laugh aloud).

I am not a rememberer. I haven’t figured out how my memory works, but it’s selective, and I am not the it doing the selecting. My grandfather called what he had an overactive “forgetter,” and I tend to think I’m working with the same. Amusingly, in going through files over the weekend I found a magazine clipping from years ago (from where I do not know, sorry for the lack of attribution) that I obviously saved to make myself feel better:

If you tend to lose at Trivial Pursuit, take heart: It just may be a mark of a superior mind. A recent study from the University of Oregon looked at differences between the brain waves of students with “high capacity” and “low capacity” memories as they performed visual memory tasks. Contrary to the belief that those with better memories have more storage space upstairs, the researchers found that, in fact, the smarty-pants group had more efficient brains that were better able to ignore trivial or extraneous information. The brain waves of low capacity students actually showed that they took in more information than the high capacity students, processing both relevant visual cues and distractors. Study author Edward Vogel, PhD, professor of psychology, adds that memory is “strongly correlated” with other types of intelligence: “Effectively controlling what information reaches your awareness is likely to be beneficial to performing many complex cognitive tasks in which we must keep out things that are irrelevant to our current goals.”

It occurs to me that it sounds like I’m calling Nick low capacity – ha!! No Sir. For one thing, I can find a dozen articles that say coffee is good for me (because it makes me happy to only listen to that side of the coffee argument), but as good as this cup is (so. good.), it’s not the whole truth. Nick is one of the most intelligent people I’ve had the pleasure to call my friend… and I wish my brain could store like his could.

On a heavier note, one of the great masters of the art I study passed away on Tuesday. I am unbelievably fortunate to have had the opportunity to take classes from him in Japan, once in November of 2010, and a few more times just two months ago. While I won’t remember all of the techniques that he showed (how do people do that?!), I was certainly left with a feeling, one I’ll forever cherish. One of my favorite memories of Japan will always be the night we made the journey (a couple of hours and many train connections from our ryokan) out to his 8pm class. He kept a pot of home grown sweet potatoes on the heater for the duration; when he sent us out into the dark later, he gave us each a huge steaming chunk to snack on and keep us warm on our long walk back to the train. That’s the kind of memory I retain.


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