By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Remember a version of the memories

Wick's World


I stopped by the Moose Lake Area Chamber of Commerce last Friday. After greeting the plastic moose, I went inside and greeted a couple of retirees. One was filling in for the director who was out of town and the other was filling the ear of the retiree who suddenly found himself employed, albeit temporarily.

After I sat down to shoot the breeze, one of them mentioned the column I wrote last week. My reply is always the same, “Which one?”

It’s not that last week’s story has skipped the part of my brain that holds memories. It’s more that my stories tend to blur into non-sequential events. One week I may write about last Tuesday and the following week I might write about events from 50 years ago.

The retiree from Roos Motors, the one not named Jerry, clarified his reference to my column.

“You were writing about old rock and roll memories,” he stated.

Wow! My memory failed to remember that I wrote about memories of the Black Hills last week. One part of the story referred to seeing Van Morrison perform in the Black Hills in 1966 with his band called “Them.”

He went on to say, “Fifty years ago I spent the day at Altamont.”

I was stunned. In all my years, this was the first time I met someone who was actually at Altamont. For those of you who are not rock history buffs, the Altamont he was referring to was a speedway in Southern California where, arguably, the most disastrous rock festival in history took place.

Altamont was supposed to be the Rolling Stones version of Woodstock. It was almost rock and roll’s Armageddon.

Incredibly, someone, most likely Keith Richards, thought it would be a good idea to hire as security none other than Hell’s Angels. Are you kidding me? That’s like hiring the Boy Scouts to oversee this year’s Republican Convention. Inevitably, a Hell’s Angel decided stabbing and killing an avid fan who was having too much fun was the road to a peaceful concert.

After our friendly chat, I decided I could continue down this road of writing about my memory for quite some time. If I begin to repeat myself, I’m sure one of my avid fans will inform me, and not by stabbing me with a knife.

David McRaney, in his book “You Are Not So Smart,” says it is a misconception that “memories are played back like recordings. The truth: Memories are constructed anew each time from whatever information is currently available, which makes them highly permeable to influences from the present.”

Alas, I feel vindicated. For years, when questioned by my readers about the accuracy of my storytelling, I always use Jack Nicholson’s quote from the movie “Something’s Gotta Give.”

“I’ve always told you some version of the truth.”

It turns out all of us are guilty of this very thing, whether we realize it or not. If we view our life as a movie reel or a theatrical play in which we are actors on the stage of life, we begin to understand the concept that we create our life with our actions, which become our memories.

Here is where the memory issue comes in. Memories are not only imperfect, they are constantly changing.

McCraney states, “You incorporate the memories of others into your head all of the time. Studies suggest your memory is permeable, malleable and evolving.”

This has its upside. Frightening or hurtful memories can be "adjusted" or even laid to rest to allow us to move on in life. Good memories can become even better. Embellished memories, like some of mine, can become whatever we want them to be. Studies have shown this is the norm and once those memories become what we want them to be, we believe that is actually the way things really happened.

Unfortunately, there is a huge downside to this also. It has often been stated in politics that if you tell a lie often enough and long enough, pretty soon people begin to believe it as the truth, including the original teller of the lie. Clinton calls Sanders a liar and Sanders calls Clinton a liar. Trump calls Cruz a liar and virtually everyone calls Trump a liar. What is it that frightens me? It’s the lies that stick around long enough to become truths, and that is what our democracy is increasingly based upon.


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