The Longest Now


Communicating through a sieve
Monday February 07th 2005, 5:13 am
Filed under: %a la mod

It’s easy to discuss communication as though it were an external
service, provided by tools and channels outside ourselves.  But
most communication successes and failures depend on memory,
self-control, rhetorical skill, confidence… all traits which, though they
project through different media with different fidelities, begin with the mind.

For now, let me take a stab at memory.  Those of you with  perfect or near-perfect recall,
pitch, or face-name association, help me out when I falter. 

Memory acts in bizarre ways.  It is wholly unreliable at times,
yet we depend on it for safety, continuity, and sanity
(Well, sometimes
I am certain that we depend on the combination of memory with some
external feedback loop with the rest of the world.)  At times it
is not there on demand, and at other times it comes to you unbidden.

When I was a toddler, my parents once asked me what I wanted to drink,
and I replied “a martini“.  This amused them for months.  They rarely drank, hated martinis, and couldn’t imagine where I
had heard the word.  I can’t imagine either, but I bet I
heard it exactly once (while my father was communing over his daily
crossword puzzle, perhaps?) and part of my mind happened to think of it
then.  What I am pretty sure of, is that the word popped naturally to mind.  And I’d also bet I had hundreds of
opportunities to answer similar questions, before such a question and
such a random memory came together.

Tonight, while minding my own business in the kitchen, that same part
of my mind said, butting into a quiet train of thought about what to do
with my noodles, “parenchyma“.  Hmm, I thought, what a funny thought to have.  But there it was, lingering in my mind’s rear-view mirror.  “parenchyma“.  (read on…)


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