What Does Your Memory Actually Do?
The cover story for the November 2007 issue of National Geographic features a fascinating analysis of the human memory. The article tells the story of AJ, a 41-year-old-woman with an amazing ability to remember nearly every moment of her life since age 11. On the opposite end of the spectrum is EP, who suffered severe brain damage as a result of the herpes simplex virus. As a result, he is incapable of forming new memories and forgets every conversation within just a few seconds. The article is summarized well by its simple subtitle: “In the archives of the brain our lives linger or disappear.”
Technically speaking, the memory is the faculty by which our minds store and retrieve information. Practically speaking, however, it is much more than a stored pattern of connections between neurons in the brain; nearly every expression of your individuality comes from the archives of your memory. Your favorite foods and personal preferences, the ability to recognize the face of a loved one, and even reading this paragraph in English depends entirely on your capacity to remember.
In view of the immeasurable influence of memory on daily life, the value of filling it with Scripture immediately becomes apparent. The psalmist’s decision to spend the “night watches” awake in meditation on Scripture (119:148) makes absolute sense when we consider the immeasurable impact memory has on daily life. Certainly memory capacity may differ from person to person, but I’m increasingly convinced that the content of a person’s memory is much more impactful than its quality. In that light, may it be said of us as it was said of the disciples following Christ’s resurrection: “And they remembered His Words” (Lu. 24:8).