Memory matters

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Sad, but true, I finally finished a novel this past summer that I had started reading the previous summer.  I have read most of John Irving’s novels, so I was determined to finish: In One Person.  (From a New York Times review:  “In One Person is a story about memory.”)  I can always count on Irving’s stories and characters to make me think deeply and differently about social justice and issues.  After I finish his novels, there are always a few lines or passages that stick with me.

The main character of In One Person eventually becomes a writer.  Written in the first person, this character quotes some of his own writing and thoughts on growing up (p. 259-260):

That moment when you are tired of being treated like a child – tired of adolescence, too – that suddenly opening but quickly closing passage, when you irreversibly want to grow up, is a dangerous time.”

Ambition robs you of your childhood. The moment you want to become an adult – in any way – something in your childhood dies.”

This bit about memory also lingered with me:

Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t. It simply files things away; it keeps things for you, or hides things from you. Your memory summons things to your recall with a will of its own. You imagine you have a memory, but your memory has you!”

It is an interesting reminder to me that while growing up is desired and (mostly) inevitable, it can come with a sense of loss.  We have our memories, but maybe some of the forgetting is important in the process of letting go of our childhood and becoming an adult.  Why do we remember certain things and forget other things from our past?  I have about a handful of experiences that I can recall from early childhood, a lot more as an older child, and so on.  It is interesting to think about the early memories that I have retained to this day, and yet they might also be forgotten one day.  I value the different things my memory has helped me with, but it is easy to take it for granted.

I know that memory is extensively researched and continues to be.  There are so many interesting aspects of memory to wonder (and worry!) about.  It intersects with the understanding of cognition, learning, aging, etc.  I recently read the article, Our Memory Quirks:  Are They for Us or against Us?  The author reviews a book about memory research and shares some good points to consider. For example:

False memory research, especially, should concern us in an era in which leaders often lie and fake news has flooded social media.”

And also,

Although some researchers suggest that education might evolve toward critical thinking skills over information memorization, in fact, there is a need for both. Critical reasoning doesn’t work on its own.”

I wonder if collaborative online sites like Wikipedia will become even more important in verifying facts ahead. Check out:  Once Reviled in Education, Wikipedia Now Embraced by Many Professors.

Does our memory have us, or are there things we should do (or should not do) to help memory (short term and long term)?  A very recent study by the University of Waterloo (Ontario), for example, found that reading information aloud improves memory.

I know that I should finish novels in a shorter time!

 

 

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Re-Purpose

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I know I am not alone in pondering “mid-life” and/or changes to one’s career or life purpose.  I am also quite sure that I am not alone in wondering how it would be best to make a difference given the current issues of today and recent political news and stories.  I wonder how much this is also on the minds of younger people just starting their careers.  I don’t usually read “life purpose” articles too much, but I recently found some good questions for reflection in this article: Does “Life Purpose” Really Equal Life Happiness?  (shared by @JasonLauritsen on Twitter).  The author makes an interesting distinction between “life purpose” and living “on purpose”.  Here are the questions that caught my interest:

  • What do I feel I should have done by this time in my life? Can I create a similar impact with what I can do now or with the wisdom I have accumulated?
  • What do I want to feel more often in my life? What gives me these feelings now?
  • How can I ensure my commitment to living a life where I feel good about the impact I have on others every day?

Thought I would share, in case it helps anyone else — at any age.  I am not sure I have all the answers yet for myself, but it has helped my thinking, planning and prioritizing.

Poetry, man.

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I thought the news today about Bob Dylan being a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature was pretty cool.  I appreciate the poetry in his song lyrics, but I read that some didn’t agree with this recognition.  I came to know his music and songs through my following of Melanie’s music career.  I often think of her music and lyrics as poetry, so if she also covered Dylan, than it must be poetry… 🙂

Blowin’ in the Wind was probably one of the first five songs that I learned on guitar, but my favourite Dylan song is Mr. Tambourine Man.  I heard and fell in love with Melanie’s version of it first, of course.  I loved singing along to those lyrics.  I had to listen to both today:

 

Check out this live performance of Bob Dylan in 1964:

 

Who do you consider to be the poetic songwriters of today, or who might be ahead? I have been trying to think who else comes close to Bob Dylan (and Melanie :)).

Pass the jam

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A somewhat random music-related post this time…

Have you seen the Nostalgia Machine? Doug Peterson posted about it recently and I finally tried it out.  It includes music from 1960 to 2013 and it will take you a menu for your chosen year with links to music videos on youtube. Very cool.  It is nice to have another way to round up some good tunes.  The “machine” encourages you to get your childhood jam on, but I can enjoy and get curious about music from pre-2000 just as much as post-2000 🙂

I always have my on-going favourites, from the past and the present.  I like that I experienced the music interests of my 3 older siblings when I was younger.  There was always a good mix of music in our home. And now my daughters share their music with me, “I think you will like this one, Mom…”  They will usually send their recommendation via a youtube link.  I often get lost down the rabbit hole after that.  When I get curious about a song, I usually want to find a video of it performed live. If you follow me on Twitter, you may already know this from my random live music sharing.

I recently went down the ’70s rabbit hole on youtube.  I was checking out some tunes by Lobo (Kent LaVoie) — not even sure how I got there as I wasn’t really a big fan, but there were a few pleasant and simple tunes of the past!  One music video included his version of Reason to Believe and I thought it sounded familiar…  Eventually I figured it out:  I was more familiar with Rod Stewart’s version. And now the curiosity starts.  It often goes something like this for me:

“Then who wrote that one?”.  Youtube suggestions list many others singing that one: Neil Young, Johnny Cash, The Carpenters, etc.  A Google search confirms: Tim Hardin wrote it.

Who is Tim Hardin?” More searching… oh, he sang at Woodstock.  He also died young.

“So, what did he sing at Woodstock?” Ok, I see: If I were a carpenter.  “Oh.. look how many different singers continued to sing that one….” and now I am in the ’60s… and then in the ’80s…

Back to the Nostalgia Machine — what a handy resource for the home and school.  A few posts later, Doug also shared this option to explore more music around the world.

Keep passing the (preserved) jam… always something new to learn through music!

Break out… as you wish

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This winter has definitely been kinder to many of us in Canada (so far).  Even though the weather can be strange and the trends can be worrisome, I have been hearing the relief, if not giddiness, in conversations about this warmer winter!  I have heard many say that January went by fast, so maybe January was less “blue”?  I think it might be worth breaking out in song or dance about!  Whatever the reason or excuse, it might be good for us to do!  I recently read: Landmark study measures healthy dose of the arts.  It lists many ways that one can engage with the arts including (and simply): “Maybe it’s listening to 20 minutes of your favourite music on the way to work or doing a colouring book in your lunch hour or if you have the money going to the theatre.”  Good to know that it may not be as hard to include into a day as one might think!

For further inspiration, I searched for some of my favourite dancing and singing “break out” scenes from movies:

I haven’t seen the new Peanuts movie yet, but for a start:

How about a boogie from Billy Elliot?:

How about a flash mob (before we called them that?):

And who can’t at least smile at “Little Miss Sunshine’s” dance? Olive’s family’s reaction and support is one of my favourite scenes as well:

Breakfast Club style?

Breaking out in song might be more my style.  (Check out the benefits of singing in a choir here.)

A few of my favourites:

 

 

 

 

It’s not perfect in the movies either, so as you wish.. 🙂

Feel free to share your favourite inspirational “break out” example too.

 

 

 

 

For Joe

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Although I am not blogging and tweeting about education as much as I used to, I will always remember and value many people I “got to know” through these Twitter conversations and blogging. I still look forward to following their work ahead. Even if some of these people stop tweeting and blogging, I know they will still be busy trying to make a difference in education and in the lives of children.

Needless to say, I was so sad to hear about Joe Bower’s death. I didn’t think I would write a post about him since I struggled with whether it was my place to do so.  It is his family and their loss that matter the most.  Yet, I felt unsettled that I wasn’t writing something to honour him or say the thanks that I didn’t say enough.

Recently I read Jennifer Marten’s tribute post to Joe Bower, Mourning a Friend I Never Met.  She was also hesitant to write a tribute. Her words matched many of my thoughts. Her post nudged me to write as well.

Like Jennifer, I first connected with Joe on a few topics. I followed the changes to standardized testing in Alberta through Joe’s posts and it made my own personal stand against standardized testing a little less lonely. Joe reached out to so many… supported the voices of many, and he could be counted on to take a stand for children. His blog is so real, rich and well researched. It was so kind of him to reblog one of my posts to do with Ontario’s standardized testing on his blog. His wise words and influence extended over many borders. It is reassuring to read so many tributes and see the intentions of others to ensure that his impact continues. I am thankful to have known his work and efforts. I am now following the Facebook tribute page respectfully set up by Chris Wejr.

I hope the tributes bring peace and comfort to Joe Bower’s family and friends for years to come.

 

Sunset Reflection

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Summer is short in Ontario where I am, as well as in other areas and provinces.  The majority of people in my social media connections are from Ontario, so I relate to their excitement in sharing a photo of a bloom, a tree, a lake, a sunset, etc., to celebrate summer moments.  Sunset photos are shared a lot, especially one over a lake — love those!  If you want an online visual treat, just search with both #sunset and #Ontario on Twitter.  I know Northwestern Ontario claimed the slogan of “Sunset Country“, but as families head to the many lakes and getaways, it is good to see that so many are taking in their sunset and savouring a moment of summer.

I enjoy a sunrise as well, but a sunset seems just as celebratory of a good day, a reflective moment, a punctuation of a wonderful vacation… or maybe it is the array of colour and the fact that we are enjoying them so much later into the evening in the summer.  Regardless, enjoy the moments… share if you wish — wherever you are!  The first day of winter is 5 months away…

I often like the “cloud effect”… one of mine taken a few years ago in “Sunset Country”:

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