Here on The Mountain, we’re used to strange events.
Spirit voices and music.
Impossible sights, sounds, even aromas of all kinds.
Today, though, I’m trying to get a handle on something that’s happened to me all my life, wherever I’ve been.
It’s a difficult subject to talk about because I don’t have a word for the phenomenon. There are plenty of names for failing to recall something that’s happened.
If we’re being charitable, we say someone’s “forgetful.” Or “absentminded.”
If we’re being harsh we say, “He’s got Alzheimer’s.” Or, “She’s got dementia.”
But what should we say about the opposite of forgetfulness? What should we call it when we remember things that haven’t happened?
I’m not talking about déja vu, that fascinating feeling of being in a situation or place that feels so familiar you must’ve been there before. I’m talking about full-blown memories of things that seem never to have happened.
Recent cases in point:
Last night, during the Internet screen- and TV-writing class I teach, I read the first 10 pages of a student’s script and didn’t think it was very good.
“Why’d you rewrite it this way?” I said, via the Web cam and mic link in our online classroom. “The first version was much better.”
“First version?” the student said.
“You know, the one you turned in a couple of weeks ago.”
The student looked puzzled. “Um… Mr. Brody, this is the first draft.”
But I distinctly remembered reading another. And loving it.
This morning, something similar occurred. A few weeks ago, I read an article about ceiling fans and learned something I hadn’t known before: that all ceiling fans are built with a switch that enables them to turn either clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the whim of the owner. And that clockwise is better for cooling purposes while counterclockwise wins if you’re trying to spread around heat.
Because of that, I went around the main house and made sure all the ceiling fans were going clockwise. I distinctly remembered doing it. But this morning, when I switched on the downstairs fans, all of them were going in the opposite direction.
Hurrying upstairs, I woke up Gwen the Beautiful. “I’ve got to know if I’m nuts or not,” I said.
“Waking me up this early? You’re definitely nuts,” she said, and turned over to go back to sleep.
“No, hear me out. Remember when we were talking about the ceiling fans? You saw me check out the way they turn, right?”
Gwen sighed. “Yes. And I saw that they all were going clockwise, just like you wanted.”
“Well, honey,” I said, “guess what?”
But, secretly, I was smiling because for this one I had verification. I wasn’t the only one remembering something that didn’t seem to have happened. Gwen remembered it, too.
These are small occurrences, I know. But my life is full of such events.
I make it a habit to always put things away exactly where they came from because otherwise they aren’t there when I go looking again.
But guess what? About half the time they’re not there anyway. Even though I distinctly remember their location.
Similarly, I’ve always made myself aware of where the light switches are in a room. Since childhood.
So I’ll be able to find them easily in the dark. But I can’t count the times when I’ve reached over to the left or right of a doorway in the middle of the night, confident that the switch would be there — and come up against a bare wall because the switch is on the other side.
Now I’m sitting at my desk, trying to figure out what’s going on. Comparing my thoughts to those of various friends and readers of this space. And what I come up with is this:
The universe isn’t what we think it is. There’s no fixed reality. Everything changes. Reality ebbs and flows, altering for reasons as yet unknown. But altering. Definitely.
Some people are more aware of this than others. Kids seem to catch on. Older folks, too.
Those of us near the beginning or end of life are more open, less reliant on so-called rules.
I think it’s because the kids aren’t yet in the habit of just going along, and we more mature types are so close to the end there’s no point in being anything but honest with ourselves.
I mean, whole generations can’t be crazy.
Larry Brody is an author, veteran television writer and producer and creative director of Cloud Creek Institute for the Arts. He, his wife and their dogs, cats, horses and chickens live in Marion County. The other residents of the mythical town of Paradise reside in his imagination, however, and any resemblance to actual places or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Originally published August 28, 2008