Weekly Dispatch – Remember That?

The Almost Unknown Art of Miles Davis

Art by Miles Davis, from “Miles Davis: The Collected Artwork”

Wow, what a week. The events in Ferguson, Missouri over the past week have made me think a lot about memory—personal memory, collective memory, historical memory. Pondering the meaning of memory makes me also think about forgetting. What an odd thing that we move so sporadically between remembering and forgetting. This and this are worth reading on the topics of race, Ferguson, and how we remember—and forget—U.S. history…especially good reads for European American folks.

I have a terrible short term memory. I have a hard time remembering names of people I just met, or what I walked in the room to grab, or the directions someone just told me. Unfortunately my long term memory also suffers from black holes and gray areas. I spend a lot of time looking things up, re-viewing, asking questions. In a way, I suppose this can be helpful: I get to re-integrate information in new contexts every time I look something up to confirm a memory. Perhaps re-membering looks more like re-integrating for me.


Our brain is amazing… at creating memories that never existed. – Memory and Forgetting, RadioLab

Our memories are a bit faulty. – The Great Forgetting, Aeon Magazine

Despite faulty memory, if we take more time to think and deeply reflect in the present, we build empathy for others. And we all need more empathy. – No Time to Think, New York Times

Remembering a tremendous musician and, now we know, visual artist – The (almost) unknown art of Miles Davis, Dangerous Minds 


  • Listening to that RadioLab now, I’m guessing at some point they mention Oliver Sacks, but reading his patient histories always provoked a great deal of thought for me around memory, and meaning.

    One of the things that’s most interesting to me about Ferguson is the way people seem to apply their own experience, and represent that as sort of a factual accounting for what happened. “Why don’t the protestors just follow police orders?” may seem sensible if you’ve never been pulled over 50 times in one year and subjected to “routine policing.” That’s an experience that many young black men in Ferguson probably have. In that situation, it’s hard to think anything other than that police don’t see you as human, don’t WANT to see you as human, particularly when they violate your civil liberties on a regular basis under the guise of any number of disturbing the peace / resisting an officer type laws. And of course it goes both ways, “all police are murderers” is obviously a flawed narrative. I think that’s one of the reasons we have to be aware of context, but also always strive to ask how it applies to a specific act. Running one’s own experience through to (in)validate what happened in a particular situation is something to be very careful about, and it’s also why watching video, photo, and other primary source materials from Ferguson has been so interesting. There’s still context involved, but it is closer to portraying what’s actually happening there.

    • Joe, you’re the reason comments should be open.
      (Thank you. Yes.)

    • You’re right. And I think we can’t *help* but run every.single.thing. through our own set of experiences, so you’re right that we have to get closer to things like “primary sources” — whatever they may be. I am constantly having to do this, y’know? And I get so frustrated when I see others only functioning from their own limited perspectives – right up until I realize I better check myself before I wreck myself. :)

      • Oh absolutely, and I don’t think it’s automatically a bad thing…but we live in such an op/ed culture now that people get to just say things and others pass it off as fact. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having an opinion, but that doesn’t make it “the way things are.”

        In my life it’s just a thing that reminds me that we have to better understand each other. Singularity coming or not, we won’t escape some of these questions of humanity that have existed for a long time.

        • Oh, and, I shot you an email w/my full contact info. Always interested to talk about this sort of stuff, feel free to ping back anytime.