Memory Wonderland

Illustration from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Alice

One of Carl Jung‘s favorite quotes on synchronicity was from Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll. In a conversation between the White Queen and Alice:

“It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards. The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.’

‘It MUST come sometimes to “jam to-day,”‘ Alice objected.

‘No, it can’t,’ said the Queen. ‘It’s jam every OTHER day: to-day isn’t any OTHER day, you know.’

‘I don’t understand you,’ said Alice. ‘It’s dreadfully confusing!’

‘That’s the effect of living backwards,’ the Queen said kindly: ‘it always makes one a little giddy at first–‘

‘Living backwards!’ Alice repeated in great astonishment. ‘I never heard of such a thing!’

‘–but there’s one great advantage in it, that one’s memory works both ways.’

‘I’m sure MINE only works one way,’ Alice remarked. ‘I can’t remember things before they happen.’

‘It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards,’ the Queen remarked.

“What sort of things do YOU remember best?” Alice ventured to ask.

“Oh, things that happened the week after next,” the Queen replied in a careless tone.

So, the White Queen is being foolish, right? Maybe not.  She seems to be claiming that she has a kind of foresight. That may be close to what neuroscientists in this century started to believe – that memory is not really about the past. Memory works to help guide your future actions.

Eleanor Maguire at University College London, uses the White Queen as an illustration, “You need to project yourself forward to work out the best course of action.”

People with damage to their hippocampus can’t remember their past but also struggle with forward-thinking.

The White Queen may be prescient. Or maybe Lewis Carroll gets credit for prescience.

FURTHER READING
the-gist.org/2015/07/its-a-poor-sort-of-memory…
Does Alice remember Wonderland as a dream or did she forget it?

Published by

Ken Ronkowitz

A lifelong educator on and off the Internet. Random by design and predictably irrational. It's turtles all the way down. Dolce far niente.

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