My mind works in a rather interesting way. When I remember things, I don't merely remember them from a detached perspective, able to puzzle over situations and ideas. In fact, I really don't remember at all. I relive.
When I "recall a memory," I relive the situation as it happened. I feel like it's all happening over again; I feel the exact same emotions. I can tell how everything tasted and how everything looked at that exact moment in time, everything I noticed, that is, when the event actually occurred. This is what I have termed "experiential memory," because this is not a recollection but an experience.
This means that if I write about my experiences, I am writing as I relive that experience. I am always drained and exhausted after writing in such a manner. When I do this, I don't even look at what I am writing; I just close my eyes, fall back into the memory and type. Or sometimes I look at the screen, but I'm not in my head; my fingers fly far faster than my mind processes. This is because I am experiencing the event all over again. If the event was a negative one, such as Templars was, I am feeling exactly as I felt then; I am there again, within that room; it is only my physical self that isn't there.
This is one of the reasons I don't forget things. I can't forget them because memory isn't a detached experience for me; it is a reliving.
The really beautiful thing about experiential memory is its ability to give pleasure. I can choose to remember pleasant or happy experiences and all my emotions will be in tune with this reliving of the event. But I need to trigger the memory. I generally do this using songs on my iPod. This is going to sound strange to you, so allow me to explain.
I like quite a lot of music. But often, at least initially, when I purchase music it is not for the music itself but for the event the music links to in my mind. Some examples:
1. "This Love" reminds me of my friends CG & A during Summer at YU when we were all at Madame Toussauds and were upstairs by the "American Idol" contest. They were singing "This Love" and we were all so happy. Every time I listen to "This Love" by Maroon 5, it triggers that memory and those same emotions of happiness and enjoying the fun.
2. "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers reminds me of art class at North Shore, as does "Jammin" by Bob Marley and a whole lot of other songs. That's because we listened to these on mixes during art class. Any time I'm going for feelings of peace and calm or memories of my classmates, I can listen to these songs; that will trigger those thoughts.
3. "Unwell" by Matchbox 20 reminds me of my friend Kate, because she told me it was one of her very favorite songs. I also listened to it with her many times while we were in Art together, and so whenever I hear it I think of her, and when I think of her, I think of all my wonderful experiences with her and I am happy.
Then there are more obvious connections. If a particular friend recommends a particular song to me or buys me a particular CD, I will forever associate that piece of music with him. One of my friends bought me HIM's "Dark Light" CD; whenever I listen to it I think of him. Another of my friends recommended that I listen to S&M Metallica and particularly recommended "Call of the Ktulu" and "Master of Puppets," whenever I listen to this, I think of him. It's not that my friend has anything to do with the piece of music in question, necessarily; it is simply my mental association. So if I walk into a store and hear "Call of the Ktulu" playing, my mind is immediately going to jump to the friend who recommended I listen to that, at which point I'll start wondering about how he's doing and make a mental note to inform him of this or that.
Music is always associated with something in my mind. Sometimes it really is simply the lyrics that make an impression upon me, but more often than not there's a story behind them (one of the reasons I love soundtracks to movies and musicals. There is meaning to that music, see?)
Sometimes I hear a song and immediately feel a certain way- something that has nothing to do with the lyrics themselves- wary or uncertain or angry and then I have to figure out why. Ten to one, I realize that the first time I heard this song, even if it was simply background noise at the time; for example, say I was in a department store and heard it, I felt unhappy. This means the next time I hear it I am also going to feel those same emotions. Of course, once having recognized that, I can actually pay attention to the lyrics and the music and see whether I like the song. But I find it very interesting, how powerful the link between the music and the experience is for me.
It doesn't have to be music. There are all sorts of triggers for me to relive experiences. I can hear a quote from someone or watch a movie and anything can trigger a "memory" of mine. This is usually a good thing; the only time it isn't good is when I'm in a public place, say in shul or something, and I'm suddenly struck by a pasuk and I remember an entire scenario that took place regarding, for example, a fight I had with a teacher over that pasuk. This means I've suddenly gone back in time and am reliving this experience and afterwards I'm left feeling very unhappy and miserable even though there's no cause, because this happened a long time ago. So then I spend the rest of shul concentrating on this memory rather than the here and now, which can be problematic.
Of course, should I exert the effort, I can control my thoughts and pull myself back to the present, but I rarely do that. It depends on the need and whether it is necessary.
It's rather nice to be able to carry all one's friends in one's pocket; it's one of the great joys of having an iPod. Depending on what I want to remember or who I want to think about, all I have to do is play a particular song, the song I've dedicated to them in my mind, and everything comes back to me. This is very good because it means I can calm myself down or change my mood at will (not always, but often.)
I often wonder whether anyone else experiences memory in that way, as a reliving instead of recalling. Like all things, there's a good side and a bad side to this; the good side allows for me to re-experience joy as frequently as I like or to write very emotionally charged pieces and the bad side allows me to dwell on negatives overmuch and to feel completely drained and exhausted after "remembering" certain events.