Lightning Memories

I had hoped to get this done earlier this week, but between the car going toes up, shopping, and other delights I’m a bit behind. While there is a lot going on in the world, I thought I would share a bit about memories after being hit by lightning. The recent passing of David Drake, along with thoughts on The Inklings and other things made me realize that I should probably document a bit, and hopefully you may enjoy it. May you never need the info…

While I have good analogies for filing cabinets and card catalogs (that date me a bit), the best analogy is in computer terms. Leaving aside the short-term memory issues that come with being hit by lightning, the long-term memory issues seem to be largely a case of the root directory being corrupted. In short, they think that most or all of the memories are still there, but the brain doesn’t know where to find them anymore.

Let’s face it, getting hit by lightning is going to have an effect on the most powerful bio-electric computer currently known to exist in the universe. That is exactly what the brain is, and given that the lightning appears to have hit me in or maybe just behind the right ear, I’m just thankful that damage is not worse. It could, and even should, have been so. As it is, still not sure of the best visual analogy but two seem to fit the bill: the lightning-like electrical arcs and surges inside and out when a starship is hit by a phaser or photon torpedo, or Battlestar Galactica’s last jump where portions of the outer hull and other chunks are breaking off and drifting down to the surface of the moon as the ship shudders past towards Earth.

It’s amazing the amount of trivia that is still there and pokes out on occasion. Stephen Green (VodkaPundit) made a WKRP reference the other day that I not only got, but remembered that there was a line from Dr. J. Fever that would make a good hook for sharing. That said, it is beyond frustrating to have someone who clearly was a significant part of my life contact me, and I have no memory of them. To know that I was close to dating someone, and not being able to remember their name. The thousand and one times I hit a brick wall in the middle of a conversation because the memory and information I need is not there. Let’s not even get into the fact that if I were going to lose memories why could it not be the ones I would cheerfully live without?

It would be easy to scream, curse, rant and even blame God — but it wouldn’t be right. Instead, it reminds me to be grateful for what I do have, memories included. To understand that there is a reason, though it does bring to mind David Weber‘s fictional Church of Humanity Unchained and the doctrine of the Tester in his Honor Harrington novels. Recently, two different areas — literature and music — have reminded me of the voids, and of why I should give thanks for them and the means of handling them.

David Drake’s passing was the catalyst for an interesting few days where I was able to catalog a number of missing memories. What started it was looking over a list of his works. Some I remember quite fondly, and can still pull up portions or at least plots. Some others I am sure I have read, but can’t remember a thing about them. Others, I really don’t know. I know I read C.S. Lewis’s Perilandra trilogy and The Screwtape Letters, but am drawing a blank. I think I read Mere Christianity (and boy did that title bother my 9th grade self!) but have a complete blank there.

I started doing something similar with other authors, and came to realize that there are some real gaps in there. What I am going to have to do is get copies of various books, start reading, and see if any memory cascades trigger. It’s a rush when they do, and it rocks my world be it a book or other. If it doesn’t, I still will enjoy the read as I re-discover an old friend I can’t remember having before. It is, oddly perhaps, quite comforting and even enjoyable.

The same holds true for music. The difference there is I have a ready way to tell if I have ever heard the song before whether I remember it or not. In the ear or just behind, the lightning took out pretty much all the higher frequencies in the right ear, and with the nerves quite dead it’s not coming back. It makes it hard to hear and understand small children (and some adults), music, triangulate sounds, and more. However, there is a phenomena I had read about but never expected (or wanted) to experience.

The human brain, in such cases, often tries to ‘fill in’ the missing sounds. It’s not always great when it picks up on something and fills in to create music or ‘distant’ voices on top of mechanical sounds (the rotating fan in the room often provides enough of a base for such). I say not great as one day I was catching bits of what seemed to be electro-swing, and I wish that album or station really existed. On others, the voices thing has caused me to make a security sweep or three.

That being said, I am delighted to find that if I have heard a song or piece of music before, the brain is filling in from memory the parts/frequencies that are missing. With something truly new, I either have what seems like a block of wood in one ear or something that doesn’t seem quite right. With things I’ve heard, I can enjoy them as if I still have the hearing of my 20s. When it comes to Christmas music, I’m rediscovering a couple but mostly just sitting back and smiling as I listen to the full range of the music courtesy of an amazing feature of the brain.

As with authors, I turned to Loreena McKinnett and Lindsey Stirling, along with a couple of rock groups. The fact is, when it comes to ranges and fullness of music, Loreena and Lindsey are the better choices for testing myself. Never mind that I have a bit of a crush on both, and along with The Hu, attending a concert by them is on my bucket list.

With both of them, I’ve been able to tell if I have heard the song before, and in some cases, I’ve even remembered it. In others, well, I’ve re-discovered an old friend.

I have to admit that Ms. Sterling caught my ear early on, as I’ve loved great violin (and fiddle) playing since I was a very small child. In fact, I wanted to learn to play the violin but it was outside the range of affordability. In high school, I was in a play where my character played the violin: very, very badly. They ended up taking the violin away from me except when on stage, as I was practicing and getting ‘too good’ for the production. Part of me still wants to try to learn… If you are not familiar with her, do check her out as she does qualify in the “Great” category and her dancing and more are amazing. Her video ‘Shadows‘ is a good start. For pure vocals across a wide range (and range of styles), do check out Ms. McKinnett. As for some of the rock, well, some is good and some of my choices as a kid or teen bring on a bit of cringe these days. 🙂

Despite the hearing damage, hope to keep listening to new music. From Nightwish to Sabaton, there is a lot of good music out there. Classical/Baroque is still a delight, though I wince a bit to think that one of the best such concerts I’ve heard was a large part of the Moscow Symphony panhandling in the subway as they hadn’t been paid in months. Even with the bad acoustics of all that tile…

I hope that as I re-read and re-listen I continue to enjoy meeting old friends anew. I hope, as always, that it leads me to new stories, authors, and songs. The past should always be a building block for the future, and there is a lot out there for building a new and better entertainment future.

As I said at the start, the memory issues are something I can either let drive me negatively; or, something I can use to accept and grow. I won’t deny the frustration, but it is tempered by being able to experience the first time again with delight and joy. That is a much better way to go, and leads to a number of new good things.

Getting hit by lightning is not fun! If you would like to help me in my recovery efforts, which include moving once we have medical issues cleared up, feel free to hit the fundraiser at A New Life on GiveSendGo, use the options in the Tip Jar in the upper right, or drop me a line to discuss other methods. It is thanks to your gifts and prayers that I am still going. Thank you.