The mystery of remembering

When I was writing my memoir ‘The Dance of Destiny,’ I realised, with some surprise, that my mind had held as a memory an event which I cannot, on careful reflection, remember happening. Instead, I had converted (so I realised) what I had been told about an event involving me into a memory. How many of our memories are like that?

Of course, it is well known that memory can be fallible; as well, memory is generally a function of significance. Therefore, many experiences are not remembered, because they are not considered to be worth remembering. But, has the brain registered them? If so, will they influence future behaviour (subconsciously)? Is that how instincts develop?

Observing the birds (the feathered ones) in my life, unlike the farmyard (or backyard) chicks which are taught to scratch the ground and to peck for food, the plovers which spend a great deal of their time on the lawn across the road are not seen to train their chicks how to forage. The only lesson for the plover chicks is to rush for cover when the mother’s ongoing warnings to stay close reach a crescendo. Then, I have observed how both mother and chicks flatten themselves into the ground when attacked by air. Was that a reflex action by the chicks, or an inborn instinct, or had they learnt by observation?

Reflex actions and instinctual behaviour are interesting because they are innate. How were they acquired? Somewhere along the line of genetic descent, actions learnt through experience seem to have been inherited by subsequent generations. How? Through purpose or intent? Or, through an unexplained Lamarckian process? Or, is there a mechanism for species-protecting learning to be retained and replicated through the genes?

Isn’t nature wonderful, even if there are many veils to be removed?


More known unknowns

I am fascinated by the ability of certain insects and animals to possess, or even create, the colouration and markings on their skin which enables them to appear as if they are an integral part of the tree trunk or leaves on which, or against which, they have sited themselves. While I understand how evolution is said to operate, my credulity is challenged. Am I to believe that this ability reflects random (chance) mutation, followed by adaptation through survival?

Or, does this reflect a need to adapt? If so, does this implicate purpose? Indeed, is there not evidence of purpose in the way my plants and trees seek to outgrow one another in order to reach the sunlight? There is a battle going on in my backyard. Or, is there not purpose in the way our senses indicate a threat to our health, or even existence, without any visible or audible signs of an approaching threat? Or, in the way my eyelids lower themselves to protect my eyes just when some material, or even some life-form, is about to strike, or fly into, my eye? Or, in the way my brain offers me an appropriate word, while my conscious mind is still searching, for what I am writing or when I am solving a crossword puzzle? Does the human brain have life of its own?

Do we really know how the whole human being works? For instance, we have not explained how anyone could come up with a cosmology which states that the life of the universe is cyclical, with existence followed by death (or suspension) repeatedly, with a larger cycle estimated to span 3.11 trillion years (which cycle also repeats itself, presumably for ever)! While such a concept can be neither proven nor disproven, how could some humans conceive and calculate such a scheme?

In terms of how we know what we know, it seems improbable that we did not receive some outside help.