|Image courtesy of Roke from Wikimedia Commons|
She meant lies and other nefarious fabrications, not flights of fancy. The word “story” could mean either in her mind, and she frowned on both. Anything that wasn’t factual was suspect because non-facts had no foundation and therefore couldn’t be trusted. Stories were like gathering clouds—dangerous in their potential.
My husband would agree with her definition if not her assessment. He’s an engineer, suspicious of the frayed edge that all stories have, the place where facts start unraveling. He says that fact and truth are the same thing. He says that if he started writing equations based on my ideas of truth, planes would fall from the sky.
It’s a point.
And yet my brain can’t make sense of all the facts around me. Information overload sets in, so my brain begins editing my reality into something I can comprehend, erasing this, focusing on that. It connects my present experience to the other experiences folded and tucked in my gray matter, and by doing so, creates a chronology, a sense of past and future, effect and consequence. The human brain is wired for stories, and it programs our consciousness accordingly.
Not facts. Stories.
Memory is useful not for what it records, but for what it erases. For the vast majority of us, it is not photographic. It takes out the extraneous—however factual—and leaves us with essence—however slanted. And our recollection is slanted; it must be. No true and perfectly accurate memory exists. Certain details, by necessity, weren’t captured in the first place, and every subsequent time your consciousness touches the memory, it further alters it, even as the flawed memory is carved deeper into your brain.
“Every time we remember, the neuronal structure of the memory, no matter how constant it may feel, is delicately transformed. If you prevent the memory from changing, it ceases to exist. So the purely objective memory . . . is the one memory lost to you forever.”
* * *
Tina Whittle writes the Tai Randolph mysteries for Poisoned Pen Press. The sixth book in this Atlanta-based series—Necessary Ends—is available now. Tina is a proud member of Sisters in Crime and serves as both a chapter officer and national board member. Visit her website to follow her on social media, sign up for her newsletter, or read additional scenes and short stories: www.tinawhittle.com.