The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Finite Capacity of My Brain


by Steve Gajadhar


The more things change the more they stay the same, right? How about the more I learn the more things I forget. It seems to be the way my brain works.

Let’s imagine a bowl as my brain, full of a semi-viscous paste that symbolizes knowledge. Along comes fresh knowledge, say a book, be it fiction or non, and this new book is like a steaming batch of fresh paste (knowledge, remember!) that gets poured into the bowl. Up until a couple years ago things were going great, new paste = new knowledge, but then something happened. My bowl reached its capacity. Now the new paste enters the bowl (we’ll say somewhere near the middle to keep the physics simple) and the force of the pouring drives the new paste downward, which displaces an equal amount of old paste outward and upward along the sides of the bowl. This old paste ends up spilling over the sides of the bowl and is lost forever, or until I find that same batch of old paste and pour it in again, which displaces more paste, and so on.

This problem may be unique to me, but I doubt it. And another thing, it’s getting worse. Are my neural pathways deteriorating with age? Do I need to buy one of those “exercise your brain” video games? Is all this learning making me stupid-er?

Here’s an example: I’m currently sifting through “The Fabric of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene. So far it’s a great read. Only I have to keep going back and rereading sections once I’ve finished them. Considering I’ve read at least a dozen books on the very same concepts Greene is talking about, I should have it down by now. I don’t. I mean I do in a way, but the specifics constantly elude me, only the general ideas remain. Everything is hazy. Take relativity, the very title of the theory often misleads folks. Not everything is relative, but for the life of me I can never remember what is. I have to go look it up, every dang time. Here it is: speed, distance and time are relative; relative to each other, and relative to absolute spacetime. And there went some more old paste over the bowl. I wonder what snippet of knowledge that re-education cost me. The sad part is I’ll never know until I need it and it’s not there.

The finite capacity of my brain affects my writing as well, particularly grammar. I’m constantly refreshing my skills (skills is used loosely here), relearning the basics. All of which vanish if I stray from writing for a couple of weeks. Even its and it’s for crissakes, not that I don’t know the difference, just that my eyes stop seeing mistakes when I’m proofreading. Grammar loses its place in my functional memory. Split infinitives, fragments, etc, etc, etc. It’s like I have to recode my brain into writing mode. Then when I do, poof! Say goodbye to Special Relativity.

All this has me searching for a way to enlarge my bowl. And I don’t buy into that we only use 10% of the brain business, so I guess that means I need a larger brain. I’m sure nature will provide for me in a few million years, but I could sure use one now. Any idears?

6 Comments:

Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

This is a timely post for me! I horrified myself twice this month: two chapters into a novel before I realized I read it before and two scenes into a movie before I realized I rented it before. This NEVER happens to me. And now it's happening all the time. Well, twice. But twice, close together.

This is a timely post for me! I horrified myself twice this month: two chapters into a novel before I realized I read it before and two scenes into a movie before I realized I rented it before. This NEVER happens to me. And now it's happening all the time. Well, twice. But twice, close together.

Wed Aug 09, 07:49:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger MelBell said...

My "idear": Come home!

Wed Aug 09, 12:39:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

This is great! Oh, how I relate. (Look up unintentional rhyming.) Centuries ago I taught English. Now, I can't tell a present participle from a gerund. When I write a review, I have to resort to convoluted sentences to explain what I mean when the perfect word is out there if only I could remember it.

Thanks, Steve.

Wed Aug 09, 01:20:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Patricia said...

I am the worst grammar person ever, the worst speller, I forget words, simple words, they look ridiculous and new and like something I've never seen before, I don't know if it has to do with our brains, in my case, it's my age...

Wed Aug 09, 01:58:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Steve Gajadhar said...

Dang it, that Tibbetts is one funny guy!

Thanks, gang.

Thu Aug 10, 01:32:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

Perfect. Comforting really. And hilarious. You and Tibbetts (and that Pasha Malla) should all go on tour. I'd buy tickets. Hell, I'd sell tickets for you.

Mon Aug 14, 04:26:00 pm GMT-4  

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