Monday, November 20, 2006

Losing it Slowly ...

I wish I could tell you why things slowly seep out of your brain and into the ether of life.

That's a sad, sad thing. I heard about a story once, though I never had the pleasure of reading it, by a brilliant sequential artist named Will Eisner. He's so brilliant, the Eisner Award is one of the most prestigious awards bestowed upon those working in the comic industry. At any rate, Will Eisner once wrote and illustrated a comic called The Spirit. It was about a '30s or '40s era crime fighter sort of hero. In this particular story, there was a man who claimed to have figured out how to fly. Of course, no one believed him, but he swore up and down he could fly. Finally, at the end of the story, he's doing his darnedest to try and communicate this information, but there's a lot of other stuff happening, and a gun fight breaks out. Just as the little guy goes to launch himself into flight, bullets assail him accidentally from the gun fight nearby, and he's killed. The secret of human flight dies with him.

Dark, is it not? But think about this: How much knowledge have you gained over the course of your lifetime? How much information -- and let me quantify that by saying valid, correct information (because your head is probably full of a fair amount of misinformation, too) -- have you stored up over the years that your brain has been recording? When you die, how much of that information is going to be passed on to someone else?

Now, in all fairness, you probably aren't holding the secret to human flight in your noggin. If you were, you'd be soaring all over hell and back, hawking yourself as the next great evolutionary step in human history and making millions from your capability. Don't try to BS me, and worse yet, don't BS yourself; you'd be raking in massive amounts of money on this if you could do it. Nevertheless, you do have valuable information in that quagmired little bog of synapses and noodles in your skull, and unless you're teaching it to someone, sharing it with someone, or at least getting the crap down on paper or some other long-term storage medium, it's going to be lost forever when you cease.

That's not always a tragedy, but sometimes it is. What if you're brilliant at one thing -- just one thing -- at which someone else would desperately love to be brilliant? You could share what you know about it with them and enrich the slipstream of human history with your own share of the content of human knowledge and/or wisdom. Your brain's imprint would be indelibly etched on the collective consciousness of humanity. You'd be a minor hero, even if unheralded, because of your contribution to the betterment of ... yadda yadda, you get the point.

It's hard for me to even say this with a straight face, but it's true ... sort of. I mean, we can all contribute something to the greater good, and leave the world a better place than we found it. It's not that hard. Just take the time to jot down everything that's in your brain about something you feel you can share with others. It can be a talent; it can be an insight; it could be a collection of wisdom gleaned from the years of living in this miserable little rathole we call "the world." It can be anything; something is going to be beneficial to someone else at some point in time. And you are the one that can make the difference.

The worst thing about it isn't just that it will vanish when you do, whatever "it" is; the worst thing is, it's going to slowly slip away from you. As we age, things tend to evaporate from our minds. We tend to forget things -- some of which can be quite important -- unless we are diligent or deeply blessed. I'm not just talking about the accursed and feared Alzheimer's Disease, either; I mean that your brain, simply put, functions very much on a "use it or lose it" sort of system. You have to practice the things you love to do in order to keep them fresh and at the fore of your awareness. Those things you don't do very often, which aren't ingrained in your memory somewhere, will fade away as you don't resort to using them very often. You'll recall snippets of information, flotsam and jetsam remnants and scattered bits of those things. But it's very much like trying to recall a tree by chasing it's dried autumn leaves as they skitter about the street on the wind. You have to exercise that wonderful organ that sits between your ears wondering why you don't use it more.

For example, how many of us have to pull out pencil and paper to do long division? It's hard to remember just what those multiplication tables were and work them backwards and forwards now, all these years removed from grade school practice, isn't it? I know it is for me; it's a challenge. I can't remember very much about high school algebra at all; I can remember quite a bit more about my grade school mathematics than I can about stuff I "learned" in high school math courses. Why? Because I use it more; we use what we're taught in grade school about adding and subtracting a LOT more often than we use the FOIL method of calculating quadratic equations, or finding the parabolic arc of a line given specific coordinates. So, those things have evaporated, at least for me, into the ether of the universe. They've been lost to the fog of my mind. Fortunately, I believe that if I found the refresher information and re-read it carefully, I could probably figure it out again. But if I don't use it on a regular (and, at least in the beginning, fairly frequent) basis, it's going to vanish again. Eventually, my brain won't work as well as it does now and I won't be able to recover the material; at least not completely.

Thus are the ravages of age; synopses don't close as quickly as they did once, or fail altogether. Cells die; information is lost.

We forget things. Some of them are important.

Like, putting in my time card for the week so that I can get PAID, for instance. Yep ... I forgot to do it.

Son of a ...


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