Memory is one of the great mysteries – what we remember, what we choose to forget, and how our memories change with time and age. There are hundreds of books on the subject, most of them quite difficult to understand and none that offer any clear answers. But even if we can’t yet understand the science of memory we can see how it works in everyday life.
Each spring, thousands of proud and impoverished parents watch their children graduate from colleges all over the country. The ceremony is called "commencement," because it signals the beginning of adulthood, financial responsibility, real work, dull parties, and all the other horrors of grown up life. It's a scary time for the graduates, comparable to going over the top in the trench warfare of World War One, and facing the enemy for the first time. That's why the graduate schools are full. These days especially it makes sense to stay out of the firing line as long as possible.
One of the more encouraging reports in the news last week was the suggestion that the rules of golf should be changed – specifically that the hole should be made larger. This has to be an idea whose time has come. The problem with golf, as with so many other sports, is that it is just too hard.
If you have ever been a teacher it won’t be news to you that attention spans are getting shorter - and it’s not just the kids, it’s all of us. Entertainment and advertising have to be delivered at high speed in tiny fragments, so consumers don’t drift off to watch something that moves faster. Curators of museums need to condense their presentations into the shortest possible time span - ten thousand years of history in five minutes. Some radio stations – but not this one – make it a policy never to play more than seven or eight minutes of music without a break.
It may be simply my age, but it seems to me that the springs of literary creativity are running dry. Searching the library, the TV schedule, and the latest movie offerings gives me an overwhelming feeling of what Yogi Berra famously called Déja Vu All Over Again. Nobody seems to have a new idea.