Language & Composition

Mr. Eure | Brewster High School

Remember This

Our second summer text is “Remember This,” by Joshua Foer. As you begin reading, annotating, and reacting to this article, keep the original summer assignment and all formative posts in mind. You might also be interested in these links:

Those are supplemental  articles. Read them and make reference to them as much or as little as you want to; they expand on and deepen “Remember This,” but they are not required. All of these pieces are informational, where our first discussion is built around a personal essay (and note the verb is in that clause; you should continue to discuss Didion as necessary, even as you fold in other authors and texts). Foer offers exploration and exposition, which you will probably experience differently from Didion’s writing. Continue, as you did with Didion, to orbit the text, and realize the purpose of “Remember This”: to connect these remarkable and rare individuals’ memories to our common experience of the world.

You might ask yourself a series of essential questions as you take notes and begin commenting: To what extent would you want to remember the details of your past? To what extent would you want to remember specific kinds of details (for example, to recall with perfect and indelible clarity every fact your teachers tell you will be on various tests)? You might also find a generative or well written quotation, like this:

AJ and EP are extremes on the spectrum of human memory. And their cases say more than any brain scan about the extent to which our memories make us who we are. Though the rest of us are somewhere between those two poles of remembering everything and nothing, we’ve all experienced some small taste of the promise of AJ and dreaded the fate of EP. Those three pounds or so of wrinkled flesh balanced atop our spines can retain the most trivial details about childhood experiences for a lifetime but often can’t hold on to even the most important telephone number for just two minutes. Memory is strange like that.

Or this:

It would seem as though having a memory like AJ’s would make life qualitatively different—and better. Our culture inundates us with new information, yet so little of it is captured and cataloged in a way that it can be retrieved later. What would it mean to have all that otherwise lost knowledge at our fingertips? Would it make us more persuasive, more confident? Would it make us, in some fundamental sense, smarter? To the extent that experience is the sum of our memories and wisdom the sum of experience, having a better memory would mean knowing not only more about the world, but also more about oneself. How many worthwhile ideas have gone unthought and connections unmade because of our memory’s shortcomings?

As you delve into Foer (and revisit Didion), push yourself to respond to at least one peer’s comment. Remember (a verb that takes on a different kind of meaning in this content) the purpose of this summer work.

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123 responses to “Remember This

  1. Conor Mitts September 4, 2012 at 11:17 am

    My mother always said arrogance is bliss, or in other words smart people are unhappy because they know what’s going on whie the arrogant live in happiness because they haven’t the foggiest. The same applies here in my opinion however not in intelligence, but rather an invoulenteery action remebering. In this case we have too extremes aj who remembers every detail of her life since 11 and ep who cannot make a new memory and has no memory since 1960. Who do you think is happy. Aj’s gift is also her curse think about all the bad days you’ve had that you’ve forgotten and all the bad experiences that have faded. What if they were all fresh in your head ready to be recalled at a moments notice. The death of your father which you are only just nowvable to speak about would hurt like it was yesterday. Every trumatic experience there for the reliving. This “gift” starts to sound more like a curse. Ep on the other hand is blissful in arrogance he’s happy as a clam not knowing a thing. Although given the choice between these two lifes I would be stumped for both have their pros and cons. I’m perfectly happy right in the middle of this memory spectrum

  2. Melanie Davis September 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm

    Reading this article, “Remember This” by Joshua Foer, makes you wonder if your memory is strong or weak compared to others. It definitely makes you think about your own memory and how much you can remember. I feel that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to memory. If I could choose what to remember, I would probably not know what to choose. You would think that you would want to forget all of the traumas you were put through and all of the mistakes you’ve made. However, without these traumas and mistakes, you would not have learned the lessons you’ve received from these bad times. For example, if someone close to you passes, you will find that you life doesn’t happen the way you may want to. From this experience, you learn that you must live life to the fullest and that life doesn’t revolve around you. Even though those traumas in your life bring back unwanted feelings, those feelings only last for a little while whereas the lessons learned last for as long as you want them to. Also, reminiscing on the good times may sound very positive. However, if you are in a bad place and you look back on those fun times you’ve had, you may begin to feel depressed because you feel like you did something wrong because your not in that happy environment any more. In a way, whatever you chose, if you could, would end up having some flaws. There may be certain choices that have more pros then cons, but the cons are always going to be there. Therefore, I feel that you shouldn’t dwell on what you could have but look at the positives of what you do have.

    • Lindsey Ragan September 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm

      Melanie, I like what you had to say about the unfortunate importance of the bad memories. I believe that these traumas and mistakes teach us some of the biggest lessons of life and are infact necessary to shape us into the people we are today and the people we will mature into in the future. Not only do these memories correct us and prevent us from making similar mistakes in the future in many cases but, they make us stronger people in general. If you can survive the tough times of the past, it will make you just that much more prepared and unyielding for the future. The bad memories also benefit your happiness eventually because after all, you need to know sadness in order to know happiness. After you have experienced the sadness, frustration, anger, etc., the happiness is more apparent; you can recognize it and welcome it easier and ultimately be grateful for it.

    • Avery Pan September 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      Melanie, I thought it was extremely thoughtful of you to recognize the fact that you might not want to let go of your past traumas and other distasteful experiences. Many believe that everything happens for a reason, and it is because of this that we learn to accept the things we are forced to endure, whatever the immediate outcome is. I completely agree that you should “look at the positives of what you do have,” but seemingly enough, AJ is incapable of doing so. This is unfortunate, and I think that if she were a tad more optimistic, she may be on the same happy scale that EP seems to have been placed on.

  3. Jack Kelly September 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Which would you rather, the memory of AJ or of EJ? The answer seems clear a first, who wouldn’t want to be able remember everything that ever happened in their lifetime, right?
    Foer helps us look deeper into the disscussion. AJ’s memory may impede her from moving on in life, from letting go of her mistakes, her anger, her grief. Her memory is somewhat of a double-edged sword, becasue along with all the negative things she remembers, she also remembers all the highpoints in her life like, love, her accomplishments and pure happiness. The memory of EJ is the opposite, but also the same in a sense that he forgets the mistakes he made but can’t remember all the good time, and worst of all he can’t even remember that he has a memory disability. Sure, the past is an extremly critical part of our lives, live for today

  4. Ariana Pagnotta September 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    When I began reading the article, I envied AJ. It must really be great to remember everything, every happy moment and exciting event in life. However, as I read on I began to feel bad for her. She may be able to remember her happiest moments in life, but she also remembers her hardest. She can remember every death, heartache, loss, pain, sickness, and struggle. Sometimes, those terrible memories can out weigh the good ones. On the other side of it, EP can’t remember any of that. To be honest, EP is truly lucky. He doesn’t have to look back on life and remember his most painful moments that AJ would remember. He can go on in life without a care in the world. Like they say, ignorance is bliss.

  5. Catherine Caputo September 4, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    To remember, or to forget, that seems to be the question here. Foer presents us with two possible extremes, EP who lives more by instinct than anything, and AJ who has recorded nearly everything about her life without any alterations. So, which one would be better? I’m going to say that it’s not only those that we can choose from, There’s a third option, sticking with the minds that we have now. The way I see it, it would be hard to enjoy anything with either the vivid sense of deja vu or forgetting about it a couple of seconds later. Without exaggerations, there would be no creativity, and being unable to remember something but acting mostly on instinct would thin the line between us and animals. In other words, we have access to this much of our brain because it has led us this far already, and will continue to lead us further. While Dildon seemed to lean more towards the personal connections to certain events, Foer focuses more on the science of it all. A combination of the two doesn’t seem like a bad thing to me. After all, we remember what we do because of what type of person we are, but there’s a lot about the brain we don’t know, especially when trying to explain something that isn’t tangible.

  6. Joseph Serrecchia September 4, 2012 at 8:32 pm

    Like Ariana said, when I first began to read this I thought about how cool it must be to have that type of a memory AJ has. You can recall anything from any point of time in your life with no effort. As i said at first glance, that sounds amazing to posess. Then when you put deeper thought into it not everything that happens in your life is something to remember. AJ still feels all the pain from years and years ago from any bad memory. As many people have stated throughout the blog, AJ’s memory truly is a curse in disguise but, also an advantage because with every bad memory you learn from it. Being able to remember every mistake you made gives you the intelligence to avoid that mistake. The same goes for EP, his disadvantage is also his advantage. His disadvantage is that he can;t remember anything even all the good things in life. He misses out on being able to reminice with friends about old times later in life. Those moments are what build friendships. Ep will never get to experience that. On the other hand, he will never have to remember bad times in his life. He doesn’t have to feel pain that way. This gives him happiness that no one else can have. Truly an advantage as his slate always gets wiped cleaned.

    • Brian Donnelly September 4, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      I thought the same thing, and i thought how that would be for my life, remembering all the facts for a test, all the funny stories, but then to think about everything. All the bad things I don’t know if id want that. But in the case of EP I don’t think that I would be able to give up all my good memories to get rid of my bad ones. There is no doubt that id choose to always remember bad memories than to never remember good ones.

  7. Sara Lavelle September 4, 2012 at 9:16 pm

    Reading about Aj’s gift seemed so spectacular. Who wouldn’t want to remember great memories? And every fight you got into about what truly happened at an event you’d win. Hoowever, like almost every gift comes with something negative. Every mistake follows you forever, there’s no shaking it, there’s no moving on. Every bad break up plays back and every bad fight will always come back in your mind. Then there’s the worst end, Ep’s. Losing your memory may just be the worst thing to ever happen. Because you don’t just lose those sad depressing memories, you lose even happy ones. Which brings you to the thought on how everyday we wish we could remember everything on the day of a test and we wish we could forget everything the day something horrible happens. In a way this ties into the first article because sometimes we want to remember things in a different way so why not write in a notebook about things that may not have truly happened? It’s the best of both worlds, you get a bit of Aj’s memory in which you’re brought back to an event however you also get Ep’s because you don’t truly see the whole the story, you get an idea of it.

    • Will Kelmenson September 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm

      This is interesting because from our perspective as we are now, we would much rather have a very good memory like AJ’s, so that we could remember our entire lives. We know that it would be worth the negative consequences of always remembering the negative memories. Although I wouldn’t like to have no memory at all like EP, I know that if I did then I would would probably be very happy because I wouldn’t worry about the past or future, only what is happening right in front of me in a single moment. It would also be nice to simply erase all of our negative memories and just keep all of the positive ones, but then wouldn’t that take away an important part of life?

  8. Will Kelmenson September 4, 2012 at 10:07 pm

    This is a very interesting article about memory. It is impossible for me to imagine what it would be like to have a memory like AJ, and the same goes for a memory like EP’s. The comparison between AJ and EP is also very ironic. AJ has an unbelievably good memory, while EP has essentially no memory. If given just this information, anybody would probably say that they would rather be like AJ. However, as shown in the article, EP is much happier than AJ. This is because he lives only in the present, not having to worry about the past or future, something that causes most humans stress. This article also shows how little we humans actually know about our own brains. We are still guessing and coming up with theories about the human brain, and while we have made progress, there is still much more to learn. This is just another area for further advancement of human knowledge for the future. The article also suggests that humans before our time had better memories because they lacked any place to store information besides in their own minds, making memorization more important. This is ironic as well because today, we present-day humans often think of ourselves as more intelligent than humans of the past, when in reality, humans have only become more intelligent as a single group, not as individuals.

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