A New View of Time, Memory, and Imagination

When I come into contact with an object, three functions occur.

1) Exploration

I use my senses to study the object. Maybe I look at it, or listen to it, perhaps I pick it up and feel it with my hands. If the object is a mental object, I might do this exploration with the approximate senses of my mind’s eye, or I may just nail a word onto it and let associate traits fall off it as they will.

2) Contextualizing 

I determine how I relate to the object. For physical objects some of these things are innate. I can estimate how far I am from the object. I can determine if the object is still or moving. However, there are other processes for which I must construct a mental object from the object itself. For example, was the object in the room when I entered or did it appear afterwards? There is no way for me to tell by looking at the object. I have to create a small history in my head, replay the moment that I entered the room and determine whether or not the object was there.

Now, an important part. The mental object in my small story is not the object I see in front of me. This is, in fact, the key behind slight of hand. I follow the mental object of the coin, rather than the coin itself. Thus it “disappears” from where it never really was. 

Or, consider a lost set of keys. I create a mental set of keys in all the places I intend to search. It is only after searching that these phantom keys are dispelled, but they are dispelled retroactively and completely. I even chide myself for looking in a place devoid of keys, no matter how reasonable the guess might be.

3) Utilization

Now, I determine what use I have for the object. Once again, for most processes I have to create a mental version of the object first. It may be created for the purposes of motor planning, such as the phantom glass my imagined arm picks up before my real arm gets me a drink of water. I may file the mental object away in a database of mental objects, to draw upon when I wish to create that object in dreams. It may be cast in an imagined scenario, when I decide to worry. In fact, the only times I interact with an object without going through some motions with a mental object first seem to be accidents.

Now, in very rough terms I consider exploration the present, contextualization the past, and utilization the future. However, there are episodes of false contextualization that have never existed in the past, and utilization that is conceived but never occurs in the future. 

In the same way, a mental object can be taken from my head and described in words from my mouth or on a page and enter the head of someone else in the future, but then transport itself to the past.

As an example:

In 1984, I went to the Epcot Center and got a small stuffed purple dragon named Figment. 

If you have already seen this dragon, having yourself gone to the Epcot Center, the image of the dragon may be clear in your mind. If not, for you the image of Figment is a bit different. Perhaps more frightening, perhaps more silly. Still, although you will be reading this in my future, the inclusion of “In 1984” will place Figment in YOUR 1984, or for some the hazy 1984 before you were born.

Of course, Figment is now in my daughter’s room. In that small sentence, I have added nearly three decades of history onto Figment. Not only onto Figment, but onto the mental object that is me.

It has disturbed me of late that mental objects are becoming more and more prevalent in my daily life. The reason for this is simple: Mental objects are malleable, corruptible, instantly changeable. You have my assurance that Figment is real, that there is a prime object for this mental object, and yet who is giving you this assurance?   

If you have never met me, you are receiving an assurance from a mental object. If you have met me, you are receiving an assurance from a mental object. 

The proliferation of mental objects is disturbing.

Most disturbing of all is a haunting in the back of my brain, a glimmer of suspicion that I have, in the past, come into contact with a prime object of which no mental object could be forged. I am unable to recall it, unable to describe it, and cannot fathom how I could use it. 

I know it was the early 90s. A Subway counter in Columbia, MO. I know I struck it with my hand. I know its vibrations and its sound, but not the object itself. I have an approximation: The Stanley Home Designs BB8023 Spring Door Stop. However, it was definitely not this door stop, because door stops do not hover three inches above a cash register.

I say “most disturbing of all” and yet I have a much more reasonable fear. If there is a prime object that shrugs of mental objects, then what of one that displays a false mental object?

As children, we see these monsters for what they are, lurking in the darkness. Then some adult comes along, turns on the light, and says, “See? It’s just a coat!” or “Don’t worry, it’s a hat on a chair.” 

When I think back to my original purpose of writing this essay, it was to note how I realized that perhaps time does not exist as anything but relationships between objects. Perhaps reality does not exist but as a filling-in, a shading of the lines between the time generated by object relationships to give it more texture.

No, that wasn’t it.

I had realized…something. There was something in the room. Like a labyrinth. No. Not like a labyrinth. Something.

Something.

And I knew I had to write this down. Trap it. Trap it in here. 

By writing it down.

Only I think I missed it. I think I grasped a part of it. Perhaps enough to place between two glass slides. Unless that too is a trick.

Like a labyrinth.

Amazing.

A maze. 

I…

I’m going to post this without reading it.

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About paulgude

Paul Gude writes small books, makes stupid music, draws silly pictures, and does weird things on stage.
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One Response to A New View of Time, Memory, and Imagination

  1. abetterjulie says:

    I had a dream once, and as I was waking I watched my brain visually sort each “snapshot” into a timeline, so that there was a story told. It was absolutely fascinating, and I have never really viewed reality quite the same since.

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