The Final Cut

FinalCutThe Final Cut, a sci-fi movie starring Robin Williams, is an externalized illustration of the brain’s process of creating memories. The movie stresses how our belief in the truth of what we remember is often flawed by our limited perception and skewed interpretation of any given event, including every day activities.

In the movie, some people have opted to have chips implanted in their heads to record all their daily activities. Robin Williams is a cutter (an editor) of memories, who is brought in after someone dies. His job is to take those recordings and create a feature-length ‘film’ of memories as a keepsake for the deceased person’s family and friends.

Robin is the personification of what our own brains do, which is to analyze, edit, and store memories. Out of the millions of stimuli that we encounter every minute of every day, our brains decide what is worth keeping and what isn’t. It also needs to interpret those bits and pieces, and then determine how to fit them together into some type of cohesive event.

For instance, in getting ready to go to work, there is input from kids, spouse, TV/radio, emails, texts, pets, neighbors, and neighborhood. Your brain must decide what to take in and what to leave out, put it all together into some pattern that makes sense, and then store it under the heading “May 4, 2017, Thursday morning” (or something to that effect).

Now, if it’s very similar to every other morning, it may not even get a special title. It may just be entered into a group file called, “weekly mornings.” That makes it harder to pull out and review later, because it’s simply lumped with every other early morning routine. So, if someone asks if you brushed your teeth, you’ll probably say, “yes,” because that’s what you do every day. But what if you didn’t? What if, for some reason, you ran out of time, so skipped that step in your routine. It wasn’t a big enough deal for your brain to create a separate file for that day, so you can never be sure whether you really brushed them or not. But say your tire was flat and you had to take public transportation. That is different enough that the memory probably got its own little storage file. Especially, if you encountered someone strange and interesting on the bus or train that you had to take.

So, not every memory is sacred to your brain, and not every memory can be recalled in detail. Add to that the fact that your brain also has ego telling it what to do. Ego doesn’t like to look bad, so it’s going to tell your brain to skew certain things in your favor. Just like the cutter in the movie, you will store your memories, but some will ‘need’ a bit of editing.

Did you and your girl/boyfriend just break up? Well, obviously, it wasn’t your fault. Even if it was, it wasn’t; and that is what your brain will record in your memory. Did you just lose your job? Again, that memory will only be stored once the editing is done. The loss was a positive; the loss wasn’t your fault; the job was beneath you. All the details leading up to and including the day the event occurred will support this positive conclusion. While any of the ‘facts’ that don’t support the conclusion will be forgotten (or edited out). So, instead of seeing yourself as the one who was always neglectful, late, and irresponsible, it will be the person you were dating. Therefore, the memories your brain stores will support that conclusion, and any memories that indicate otherwise, will be eliminated from long-term storage.

Everyone wants to believe that their memories are truthful and infallible, but unfortunately, we all carry our own editor around with us everywhere we go. That means that every memory is just one version of reality. It also means that every person who was involved in the event, even just those every day occurrences such as getting ready for work, has their own version, their own memory.

So, the next time you question (even in your head) how someone could be recalling a moment or a day so differently from how you recall it, remember that you all have your own editor. And that editor has its own agenda and its own perceptions.

A Review of “Accidental Ashes”

xoe2“Accidental Ashes: or that time I found out I was a demon, and all my friends were vampires and werewolves” by Sara Roethle

Summary: Last year Xoe’s life was turned upside-down. Things haven’t improved much. With the lives of her friends at risk, Xoe forgets to worry about another life…her own. With the reappearance of a face from her very distant past, and a random string of abductions to deal with, Xoe has to fight to keep things together. Even if ‘together’ is a far cry, ahem…howl, from the norm.

Recommendation: Yes

Review:

This second book was even better than the first Xoe book. In fact, it was so good as to appear effortless (the markings of a truly wonderful story teller). The characters interacted seamlessly and I felt quite at home with them. It was like visiting with family that I hadn’t seen in a while.

Nuances of the author’s world popped up here and there, sprinkled throughout the story like confetti at a party. With each occurrence, I found myself nodding and thinking, “Of course, that’s the way [this] world works…” Her world is nearly as rich and complete as Harry Potter’s or Rachel Morgan’s (The Hollows series by Kim Harrison), and her characters were, also.

In fact, if there is anything I have to nitpick about in her book it was the way in which she handled the interplay between Xoe and her mom. In this book, Xoe needs to cope with a lot of new and (to her) surprising information about herself and her friends. She is then confronted with her long-missing father and the truth as to who he is and why he left. Xoe handles it all surprisingly well, but her mother does not. While this is understandable—after all, in real life, people handle things in various ways and with varying degrees of competency—the part I object to is Xoe offering her mother some pain medication that Xoe was given when, at the end of the first book, she broke her arm. Instead of admonishing her daughter for sharing prescription meds with others, mom says, “…sure, why not…” and takes the meds.

I find this wrong on so many levels, but two of them stand out the most. First off, what authors write does influence others. So many people read a book wherein someone admits to doing a particular action or believing in some concept, and the reader thinks, “…well, if this person does it, then it must be okay that I do, too…” The reader doesn’t always make the distinction between life and fictional characters. The fact that the author has the protagonist doing this, thinking this, or saying this, makes the reader think that it’s okay.

The second reason I found it “wrong” is that it is a weak mechanism for getting a character out of a situation that the author isn’t sure how to cope with (I know, I’ve done it, too, and I’ve taken the criticism for it). I get it, that some people don’t handle stress, confrontations, or large amounts of negative information well. But Xoe’s mom didn’t seem to be the type to avoid life by hiding behind pills, booze, or sleep. In fact, in book 1, Xoe’s mom seemed almost as much of a real go-getter as Xoe. So, for mom to suddenly seek escape from life in pills and sleep seemed a bit like the author seeking escape from having to deal with this secondary character.

However, since mom isn’t a major character, I was willing to let it go…mostly. I still worry about young adults seeing the sharing of meds as something that’s all right, though, since mom not only condoned it, but participated in it.

So, except for that one minor point, this was definitely a 4-star book. And I truly believe that C. Roethle will be the next Kim Harrison…just for a slightly younger set of readers.

It’s in the Eyes

An-EyeI saw a movie the other day called I Origin. Although, not a great movie (the acting was so-so and the film was a little too heavy on the science and rather light on character development), it did get me wondering, and that’s usually a positive thing. The premise of the move is whether or not human eyes (specifically the iris, or colored portion of the eye) and iris patterns are unique to a person or to a soul. In other words, is my iris pattern unique to this body or is it unique to the soul wearing this body, and, therefore, follows me into every body I wear for each life I live.

While I find the idea interesting, I would have to say it’s highly doubtful. In this life, I have blue/green eyes (they shift between blue and green depending on my mood). I can remember at least four previous lives where that eye coloration would have been extremely unusual; so unusual, in fact, that I would have been killed or abandoned at birth because the parents would have believed me to be a witch, devil, or possessed by demons.

Now, I realize that some dark-skinned people do have light eyes, and some light-skinned people have dark eyes, but I don’t think the number of light-eyed, dark-skinned people in the world number enough to account for all of those who should be around if we always retain our same eye colorations.

So, what if the eye color isn’t carried over? What if only the iris pattern is; the pattern of crypts, furrows, canyons and the like? What if the color is derived from DNA, but the pattern is derived from the soul? Now, that would be an interesting study.