Those of us that are older have had the experience of enthusiastically performing a physical task or sport which we have not done for years. And to our surprise, we find out that though our minds may remember the actions, we may not have the strength or the coordination that we expected — we were deceived by our old memories and our self-image. And over the next days we suffer for our false images. In our imagination we are sometimes still that athlete or that strong kid — but our bodies prove our imagination to be a liar.
In a similar way, many of us have strong, confident opinions based on subjects studied many years ago. But like the body, the mind atrophies and memory fades. We learn this when someone asks us to defend our positions on topics we once knew well. Our opinions may be strong but our detailed memories are disturbingly withered.
This withering is obvious with foreign languages. I also experience this when writing about various religions on this blog –one of my graduate school concentrations. Likewise here are other series I have started but which required more work than I imagined to finish and thus only come back to them occasionally:
- Confessions of a Homeopath
- Confessions of an Acupuncturist
- Confessions of a Vegetarian
- Exploring Hinduism
As I write on these topics — inspired by strong, certain opinions — I quickly recognize the atrophy of memory and detailed examples I need to support my opinions. I use to have shelves of books on each topic with plentiful notes in the margins at my fingertips. But I have given most of them all away over the years and am now dependent on scouring the internet for examples.
When we visit blogs where writers are currently immersed in their area of opinion — be that Christianity or any other issue — we may discover that though we have strong opinions, our supportive memory on these topics have withered. What do we do then?
This persistence of opinion even though knowledge withers is a natural, adaptive phenomena. As with all undesigned functions of mind, they come with pros-and-cons. Here are some:
(a) Life moves fast, we often have to learn, make decisions and move one. Insights often stay true.
(b) Most of us don’t have persistent memories so we must decide while we have the experience.
(c) Knowledge may wither but insights into principles often hold true.
(a) The data may have changed
(b) At the time of the decision you lacked data
(c) At the time of the decision you had influences that biased your decisions
(d) Your past decision was wrong
Questions for Readers:
- Have you experienced this phenomena? What do you feel about it? Is it difficult to admit? Are you patient with others when you recognize that they need time to recollect data to participate helpfully in the discussion?
- Which post series would you like to see me persist with even if my data has withered?
Related Post: Depth & Complexity Deception: How our minds give us false confidence.