When I first came to New York 12 years ago, one of the first visions I had as I walked the enchanting village-like streets of lower Manhattan, was living in an apartment and writing. In a million years it didn’t occur to me that this fantasy could or would ever come true. Amazingly, it just did. Karen’s fabulous “loft” and this blog merged during the past month and one of my most implausible dreams came true. Not a wordsmith by any means, I love writing. I also utterly adore this big, beautiful apartment. I’ll always have the memory of my month here and I never want to mis-remember it.
Karen will be here in an hour or two and my writing time will come to an end as we spend the next few days socialising, before I return to Cambodia at the end of the week. So this could be my final New York blog, for now at least. This morning I went to the cinema at 0940am. Mr Turner stars Timothy Spall as an extremely eccentric William Turner, the famous English watercolourist who as it turns out, led a highly unusual life. It was very good and there are at least four other films screening at the moment which I’d love to see.
Out of the cinema I had a to-do list to check off. Annual influenza vaccine at the pharmacy – check. Toy cars for Cambodian boys – check. Toy dolls for Cambodian girls – unchecked (requires another trip to Midtown unfortunately). Stockpile of Clarins face wash via Bloomingdales sale – check. Home to try for one last Loft Blog – check.
It’s all well and good to have a place to sit and write, but finding material to write about can be a different story, especially on days when all you’ve done is check off your to-do list! Reading often provokes a few thoughts which can jolt me into composing some words. So I’ve read a few interesting articles on memory distortion. This is of particular interest to me because I believe that in times of stress, we are more likely to form false memories of an event. Experience has taken me from a belief that people making false accusations were deliberately “bad”, to instead believing that in fact, it’s something that we all probably do to some extent, and that many people “believe their own propaganda”. Different people suffer different degrees of false memory and I suspect that mental ill health is somehow connected to more extreme levels of false memory.
A very interesting study from Time Magazine a year ago looked at two sample sub groups. One with ordinary memory and another with what is known as HSAM (highly superior autobiographical memory). HSAM is defined by an ability to remember the exact date that specific events happened, or highly specific details which most of us would forget immediately. In the study HSAM was screened for by asking people for the date on which specific public events occurred. Those who passed this screen were then given specific dates and asked to recall both a personal and a public event which occurred on this date. In the study, 20 people qualified for the HSAM group and 30 for the ordinary group. Despite the significantly superior memories of the HSAM group, they were found to be just as vulnerable to forming false memory as the ordinary group. The conclusion of the study was that we all reconstruct events during memory formation in the same way, and therefore all of us are vulnerable to memory distortion. This is regardless of our recall skills. http://science.time.com/2013/11/19/remember-that-no-you-dont-study-shows-false-memories-afflict-us-all/
Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph ran an article about Facebook in which 20% of young people admitted that their Facebook profiles bore little resemblance to reality as they fabricate relationships, work and holiday situations to impress others. Psychologists have warned that online social networks are damaging to autobiographical memory which can become distorted by these fabrications. “So recording our experiences through whatever medium, to later reminisce or revisit lessons we learned, is not only acceptable but desirable. In fact, looking back at our own past – however embarrassing or uncomfortable – is not just healthy but can be enjoyable.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/science-news/11315319/Lying-on-Facebook-profiles-can-implant-false-memories-experts-warn.html
Although I try not to make this blog too autobiographical, that final quote seems like an excellent justification to continue blogging.