Monday, September 15, 2014

Monday morsel: memory

Spoken by Fanny Price in Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park:

“How wonderful, how very wonderful the operations of time, and the changes of the human mind! ... If any one faculty of our nature may be called more wonderful than the rest, I do think it is memory. There seems something more speakingly incomprehensible in the powers, the failures, the inequalities of memory, than in any other of our intelligences. The memory is sometimes so retentive, so serviceable, so obedient -- at others, so bewildered and so weak -- and at others again, so tyrannic, so beyond controul! -- We are to be sure a miracle every way -- but our powers of recollecting and of forgetting, do seem peculiarly past finding out.” 

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 image:  freeimages.live.com

8 comments:

  1. Funny Jeannie, I was just reading Montaigne: "There is no man so unsuited for the task of speaking about memory as I am, for I find scarcely a trace of it in myself, and I do not believe there is another man in the world so hideously lacking in it . . . Then, as several similar examples of nature's workings show, she has generously strengthened other faculties in me in proportion as this one has grown weaker. . . If my memory had been good, I should have deafened all my friends with my chatter, since any subject that calls out such powers as I have of argument and development warms and extends my eloquence. This would have been lamentable, as I have learned in the case of some of my intimate friends. "

    I suppose it is better to be a bit forgetful than to be a chatterbox. :-)

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    1. That's a great quote! Thanks for sharing it, Adriana.

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  2. I love Austen's insight on memory - we recall some things well, others imperfectly, and others not at all, and throughout we couldn't explain why if our lives depended on it.

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    1. I remember a few years back, reading some letters I'd written my parents when I went away to university (pre-Facebook/email era!). In them, I had recounted in detail a big, ongoing conflict my landlady had with her neighbours -- yet when I re-read the letters I had no recollection of these people, or what the problem was, or that there'd even been a problem. If I'd been asked on a witness stand a week earlier whether I recalled a conflict between the landlady and her neighbours, I'd have said I had no recollection of anything like that. Yet it clearly happened and at the time I knew all about it. That's kind of unnerving, actually!

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  3. Fascinating ideas at play here. Goodness, I didn't remember Fanny being this eloquent! Maybe I'll have to reread this one.

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    1. Yes, she's talking to Mary Crawford, of all people. Mary was probably filing her nails at the time and pretending she was listening. :-)

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  4. This is so applicable to me: "Our powers of recollecting and of forgetting, do seem peculiarly past finding out.” Love this. I'm still thinking about the quote you left at my blog last week: "Interruptions ARE my work!" (Nouwen)

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    1. I'm glad that connected with you, Betsy -- I really appreciated that original post you wrote.

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