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The Power Of Memory Essay, Research Paper

The Power of Memory

It never seizes to amaze me how different colors, tastes, smells, and sounds can take us back to an event in our lives long forgotten. Its astounding how we can recall events with such clarity, though sometimes our memories are tainted with the hue of the dominant emotion we may have felt at the time. We look at our present through the memories of our past experiences.

Scanning through different stations on the radio, it seems like all the stations are playing the same songs. A particular tune catches my attention and I wait to hear the lyrics. Its Barbara Striesand singing one of her hits from the seventies, the song’s title is ‘memories’. Speaking of which, my mind drifts off to the time when I was four years old and unable to sleep at night, I had sneaked out of my room to see whether anyone was up, to find my parents sitting with dimmed lights, listening to this same song. I remember thinking then that they were being romantic, and I was not supposed to be there. Feeling left out; I quickly started to complain of a fake stomachache and how I needed someone to read me a story to be able to sleep. It was a fruitless endeavor, I was sent to bed – no story – just a lecture on how all the good children must be asleep and I was still up.

I relate the story to my brother, who is complaining about why I’m listening to such ancient music and should put his ‘hip hop’ station on. He changes the station. My thoughts are rudely interrupted by a man making, what sounds to me like a barbaric yawp, but is music to the ears of my seventeen year old brother. I tune out the unpleasant sounds and start to realize how memories have a powerful impact on our lives. Recollections of my parent’s relationship and how I was raised influence me more than I would like to believe. As children, how we see grown-ups behave around us shape our ideas about interacting in similar relationships. To a certain extent we even try to re-live these events or emulate the way we are brought up, maybe this gives us a sense of familiarity and comfort.

We are on our way to the bookstore, the sun shines brightly above our heads and is stinging my eyes. I glance in the rearview mirror and notice a Mexican restaurant that is decorated with cactuses and sombreros. It brings to mind the desert, heat, rain and ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’. I remember watching the movie when I was eight years old. It’s a hot summer day and I wish it would rain. A song from the movie comes to mind ‘raindrops keep falling on my head’, it evokes images of bikes and Robert Redford with his blonde hair which in turn reminds me of hay. I ask my brother -who is now totally engrossed in the music and moving his head in a way one does when enjoying music- if he associated Robert Redford’s blonde hair with hay. “You’re weird” he replies. Once again I realize how memories define how we view the world around us. I wonder what other people would associate with cactus and sombreros on a hot summer day. In so many ways my memories defined me. Which according to my brother would be weird.

We reach our destination, as I enter the bookstore I smell the crisp smell of new books. I browse through the books in different aisles and come across a whole section of books on Leonardo Di Caprio the actor of Titanic fame. I study his face on the cover of a book. He is so pretty. Pretty boys remind me of Oscar Wilde’s book ‘Portrait of Dorian Gray’. I wonder if Leonardo’s life is similar to the character of Dorian Gray. While contemplating the thought, I recall how I had found that book in my grandfather’s study, when I was around fifteen years old. His library was fascinating filled with old books, wisdom and dust accumulated over what seemed to me his eternal lifetime. Thinking of my grandfather gave me a warm feeling inside, I was reminded of his affection and of how he would encourage me to read and constantly remind me “knowledge is power”. Oscar Wilde’s book had indirectly reminded me of the bond I had with my grandfather and the feeling of belonging I got from this recollection of my time spent in his study reading books.

I find the book I need and leave, as I enter the house my mother inquires about where we had been. “Just on a trip down memory lane” I reply. “She’s weird” my brother adds. Later at night while trying unsuccessfully to sleep I ponder on how our memories are such an essential part of our lives. The way we perceive and react to the world around us is related to our past experiences. Memories become an essential part of our identity, without them we are without roots.


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