Has My Memory Been Modified?

I’ve been re-reading the fourth book in the Harry Potter series–I know I’m a bit behind as I’ve had to back-track, but I think something has tampered with my memory. Thank heavens for J.K. Rowling, the author of these books, who has the perfect explantion.

It’s called ‘memory modification.’ This is something currently available in the wizard world and not yet in the muggle world. Or is it? For those of you not in the know, those of us who are not wizards or witches are muggles. I think almost everyone I know is a muggle, but then again maybe I’m the one not in the know.

Memory modification is first mentioned not too far into the fourth Harry Potter book. It’s put into use when some wizard faction that is up to no-good mishandles a muggle family and then, when the good wizards regain control they put the muggle family through ‘memory modification’ to erase their undoubtedly unpleasant recollection of what had just happened to them. Sounds like a good idea to me.

Just think–if we could erase from our minds those things that have been unpleasant, we wouldn’t have to be plagued with the memory of them forevermore. We could forget about that nasty driver on this morning’s commute who threatened to end our very existence with a chain reaction of aggressive driving and obscene gestures. We could forget about that humiliating experience when we made fools of ourselves in front of our kids or co-workers. And, we could forget about all that guilt we carry around for not being able to change the things that are unchangeable anyway.

But, come to think about it, I think that my memory has been undergoing modification without my knowledge for quite some time. That would certainly account for a lot.

Memory modification must be why when I re-visit the town where I grew up, everything now seems so small–obviously my memory of how things were has been modified to make things only seem to be reduced from their original bigger-than-life size to this present miniature facsimile. That must also account for why I can’t remember the names of the streets that I used to know so well. (And to think I had thought it was a sign of aging.) That must also be why I think I’m looking older than I did 20 years ago–my memory of what I looked like then has been modified to make me think that things have changed when in fact they really haven’t. That in itself is a great relief.

And what about all those facts I so diligently memorized for all of those exams in high school and college? Quite obviously, the memory modifiers have been having quite a field day at my considerable expense. But at least now I know why those facts are no longer there in my head where I thought I had so firmly fixed them for eternity.

Maybe at the end of each day we should all be allowed the option of memory modification–it could be an all-or-nothing proposition for those days that you would rather just forget all together. Or, it could be on a selective basis.

You could choose to forget that unappealing glimpse you inadvertently caught of your neighbor’s unclothed body as he walked past his open window, but choose to retain the memory of the glory of that hot fudge sundae that was your lunch. (The accompanying guilt would of course be forgotten.)

You could elect to remember forever those newly learned facts and figures that you picked up in this morning’s New York Times–kind of like putting them into a saved e-mail file. And you could forget that painful slide the stock market took just when you’d thought it was on the rise.

But perhaps memory modification could work either way–sometimes to our advantage and sometimes not. That will require some additional contemplation–providing my memory has not already been modified to the extent that contemplation itself is no longer possible. I think I’d better just schedule a consult with J.K. Rowling.

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