Monday, January 21, 2008

That vague, sort-of radio-friendly melody makes me sad...

I'm sure we're all fairly well aware of the connections between our senses and our memory. You smell a certain smell, and it transports you back in time. Or a certain taste reminds you, vividly, of a particular moment in your own past.

For example, the taste of Eat More chocolate bars always remind me of the smell of chlorine (and, in fact, vice-versa, with the smell of chlorine always reminding me of the taste of Eat-More chocolate bars) because, as a kid, when my dad would take my brother and I swimming, we were always allowed to buy one snack from the vending machine afterwards. And I'd always pick up an Eat-More.

Certain spring smells -- sweet, fresh, and somehow *green* -- always remind of me of that fantastic period as you approached the end of the school year, summer vacation just around the corner, and even though it was still maybe 4-6 weeks away, it was close enough to taste.

Generally, these are specific senses leading to specific memories. But I just discovered -- just today, in fact -- that there's a vague, general sort of music that reminds me of someone I used to know, someone I used to be quite close to, in fact. It's that sort of dull but kind of catchy, radio friendly rock and / or pop music. Something like Nickelback, for example. Or those thousands of other bands that sound almost exactly like them.

I heard a song earlier today, I have no idea who it was from, but it had that safe, radio-friendly sound to it. And, just like that, I was thinking of her. Out of the blue. Much to my surprise.

It took me a few minutes to figure out was going, to figure out what the connection was. It wasn't really a song that I had any specific memory of her listening to or being particularly fond of, so the connection, at first, seemed almost completely random. But then I realized that, even without that specific memory, it certainly seemed like the sort of song she'd listen to, and groove to, and say, "ooooh, I like this song," even thought it was really more or less a terrible song.

She had horrible taste in music, for the most part. Well, at least compared to my own taste in music, which is probably equally horrible, but at least more...diverse, let's say. For lack of a better word.

I'm getting a little bit off topic, which wasn't a terribly clear topic to begin with, so let me just try to steer it back to the point. Which was this: I was equally surprised and fascinated to discover that this simple little song, which had no specific memory attached to it, could still very rapidly fill me with an almost overwhelming feeling of loss and sadness.

Just like that. Bang. It happened that quickly.

I didn't feel particualarly bad today. In fact, I was sitting here at work, feeling fairly good, fairly well rested, maybe could use a glass of water or something, but for the most part I was fine. And then bang, 60 seconds into a song, and I sort of want to hide in the bathroom and have a bit of a cry.

It was weird.

I'm going to be 35 years old in August. Middle-age-ish, based on current aging numbers (and based on current lifestyle choices, *cough), but you know, science, feel free to keep working on that whole extending the lifespan thing. I'm cool with that.

But at 35, I can't even imagine to think of how many different things are stored, somewhere, in my brain. Things I've forgotten about. Things that I may never remember again. Or things that might suddenly burst into the front of my brain with the help of something as simple as a sound or a smell. And I can't help but wonder, how many other times am I going to find myself suddenly filled with a surge of emotion -- happiness or sadness or anger or whatever -- because of some external stimulus, and yet have no idea what that stimulus is or what it relates to?

I'd like to be prepared for that sort of thing, if I could. Better to be able to say to myself, "Whoa, there it goes again, my volatile emotions being triggered by a faint memory that stirred by an outside source," as opposed to, "Holy fuck, I suddenly want to cry again for no apparent reason. Clearly I'm going insane."

Though I suppose in a worst-case scenario, I could just track down an Eat-More and distract myself with the vague sense-memory of chlorine.

Mmm, chlorine.

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