Have you ever been listening to a song and been instantly transported to an earlier time? Or perhaps when you’re having a meal, your mind wanders half a world away? That last mojito you ordered suddenly has you reminiscing of a loud, steamy night in Thailand. The brain is not something to be underestimated. It has an uncanny habit of connecting sensory inputs to temporal situations, taking you on unexpected mental adventures when something rings the proverbial bell. Iggy Azalea recently took me back to a snowy winter in the Japanese mountains. Thank you Iggy.
What song or image has taken you through space and time recently?
I once read an interview with a professional bodyboarder that would play a certain song over and over when he was on a trip so that that one song was his connection to that journey. He was actually able to engineer a memory connection and bypass the natural process. This was incredibly intriguing. I actually tried to emulate this technique years ago. I would pick my favourite song at the time and play it constantly in the hopes I would create a connection. My logic was that I knew I would listen to this song often, hence the memory of my adventure would be always fresh and visceral. This was, in no uncertain terms, a failure. No matter how many times a played that song through my trip, it never turned into the calling card I wished for. My process obviously has some gaping holes in it but it was worth a shot. What’s your process?
Turns out my brain had a mind of it’s own. Songs playing on the radio at irregular intervals were far more effective than my playlist of one song on repeat. Every time I hear Poker Face by Lady Gaga, I’m driving through Italy with one of my best mates trying to make sense of how we have driven around in circles for the last 2 hours. I bring up these specific examples because the memories that have just surfaced are in surround sound, 4k high definition. I didn’t engineer the mental connection, it was something that happened naturally and on an entirely subconscious level.
Have you been able to intentionally forge your own memory connections? Or has osmosis of your surroundings been the primary driver? If you have been able to create these connections, what made it possible? As I’m writing now, I can’t help thinking of the movie Saving Private Ryan, which I watched on my iPod in excess of 50 times during a 5 month tour of Europe, that brings me back time and again to sleeping in my van on a severely deflated air mattress with my last shower happening somewhere in the vicinity of a week prior. The repetition was there. The intended memory connection, not really what I was aiming for. But who cares. I care more for what has happened to others as there is no limit to the stories and adventure that has come before me.
So next time when you put your iPod to work to fill the gap between home and work, or to shut out the grunts and groans of sweaty gym patrons, see where your playlist takes you. As you can see from above, I have had memories flooding back to me as I was writing. Sometimes the unintended memories are far more valuable than you thought, although I don’t plan on eating a rat any time soon, so this memory will have to wait.
Go make some memories.
Even better, share. I know I’d love to hear about them.