By Troy Headrick
I’ve been forgetful lately. I’m talking like, I’ll be in one part of my house, decide that I need something from another room, head to that locale, and as soon as I arrive there, I can no longer recall what I wanted to get. I know this is a near universal human experience because I’ve had numerous friends, once I’ve told them about this tendency of mine, say, “That happens to me all the time.”
I’m sorry to hear that so many of us are prone to having these sudden moments of confusion. And it feels like confusion too. It’s disorienting to lose one’s train of thought so quickly. Where, by the way, do lost thoughts end up? Is there some “lost and found” where they all congregate and wait to be reunited with their owner-thinkers?
I’m certainly getting older, but I don’t think my recurring forgetfulness has anything to do with any sort of physiological problem with my brain. Writing that prompts me to wonder what, exactly, is the relationship between the very real organ and the ethereal thoughts it produces? Scientists are certainly able to explain this connection, but I have about as much formal training in the science of thinking as I do in the art of plumbing.
I think my forgetfulness is mostly my fault. Actually, I spoke too hastily and now want to recant. It’s the world’s fault instead. (Passing the buck is always such a cathartic experience, isn’t it?)
It wasn’t that long ago that humans were able to live lives that bore little resemblance to the way we live today. Of course, we are extremely adaptable animals, so we have adjusted, but in making these adjustments, we have lost something—or a lot. It’s that something (or a lot) I want to try to identify and discuss.
In my short lifetime, the world has changed so much. When I was a child, the planet was less crowded and much quieter. Where there are fewer people and voices, there is more breathing room and silence. As the voices grow more plentiful and loud, the demands on our attention multiply.
The world of work has changed too. People now spend many hours a day living within bureaucratic jungles where hierarchies require lots of paying attention to who’s on top and who’s below. In such places, there are plenty of predators and the soon-to-be eaten. This constant need to be wary gets the “fight or flight” juices flowing, and the mind feels perpetually ill at ease and distracted. At the end of each day, after fighting traffic to get home, there is the need to flush all this away. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof mental plunger (that I’ve ever been able to find), so all this noise and clutter and fear and waste just sits there, dirtying up the subconscious, making it hard to fall asleep at night. If one does manage to drift off, daytime fears manifest themselves in all sorts of nightmarish scenarios.
Is it any wonder that I can’t find where I left my glasses or why I went to the kitchen in the first place? I wanted to pull a drumstick from the fridge, but then I remembered that my boss had given me a report to write and I had forgotten about it for a few days and am now in jeopardy of turning it in late. I guess this means I might have to set my alarm extra early tomorrow morning.
I notice that I’m standing in the kitchen, facing the fridge, even as I wonder how much time I’m going to need to get that thing written. I don’t want to leave until I remember what brought me here. My stomach growls and I’m reminded, oh yes, I was hungry, wasn’t it, and I wanted to get my hands on a piece of cold chicken, didn’t I?
If this ain’t life as we currently live it, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
That’s why so many of us are planning our great escapes from ALL THIS. I’ve got my plan in mind and frequently discuss it with my wife. One day, we’re going to get all our ducks in a row and then, suddenly, you’ll notice that we’re gone.