Traces of Times Lost

Nov 29, 2016

By Erika Hayasaki

The slippery baby in the plastic blue tub cringes when her daddy, holding a drippy orange washcloth, leaks a bit of water in her face. He is bathing her for the first time. “Make sure you get the folds in her neck, where milk hides,” I say, video recording the scene on my iPhone. We are new parents delighting in and stumbling through this moment.

The three-year-old girl with pink paint-chipped toenails watches my iPhone video of that day when Daddy bathed her for the first time. She cringes as she sees her smaller self  cringe. My daughter requested this clip out of more than 400, all starring her, most of which she has watched before. We are snuggled up on the sofa. Her eyes fixate on the feet of the squirming infant on screen. She knows she was once that newborn. “Babies don’t get nail polish,” she says, looking down to admire her toddler feet. “I’m a big girl now.”

“Do you remember being a baby?” I ask, knowing it may be a trick question.

“Yes.” She is confident.

I want to peer inside her mind and see for myself what she thinks she remembers.

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3 comments on “Traces of Times Lost

  • The research found that as long as moral capacity is not impaired, the self persists, even when memory is compromised. “These results speak to significant and longstanding questions about the nature of identity, questions that have occupied social scientists, neurologists, philosophers, and novelists alike,” the authors write.

    As it turns out, the childhood memories we lose remain with us—albeit in a different form, as the underpinnings of our morality and instincts. This is what attachment theory supposes, says Robyn Fivush, the director of the Family Narratives Lab in the psychology department at Emory University. Infants who receive sensitive and responsive care giving grow up with a sense of the world as safe, and themselves as lovable and loved. “No one really ‘remembers’ these early experiences,” she says “but they still have long lasting impact.”

    Rephrasing and extending….

    Episodic memories, during the period of spectacular global neurogenesis (not just in the hipocampus but also in the associative corteces where values by association may originate) , 0 to 18 month in particular, cannot in a sense find a stable address to sit at. Episodic memories aren’t in a lookup table but are found by a mesh of related memories and there are no stable valuations/aesthetics/moral judgements yet formed to tag them and link them this way or that. This is what the hipocampus does (one of several things). To form a retrievable memory it creates an emotional/valuing tag to go with it. This valuing process creates a stable orienting geography for episodic memories and is formed by personal experiences even at this very young age, before memories as such can be made.

    For me this is the very heart of culture.

    This moral growth pre-conscious recollection is possibly the biggest single argument against Pete Singer’s, valuing only of consciousness….

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  • @philrimmer

    it creates an emotional/valuing tag

    i’m in the middle of one of your recommended books
    at the edge of uncertainty by michael brooks
    is this tag his “quantum weirdness” at work?

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  • quare

    I don’t specifically remember recommending that book though Reckless is a Michael Brooks fan I think.

    I certainly talk much of how brains “dance on the edge of chaos” as a trick to both turn up the gain on sensing things, and how “noise” can help big complicated brains from locking up and failing to act under an avalanche of conflicting data.

    I am no fan of quantum weirdness as an account for any neural behaviour until much more conventional processes have been eliminated first. I can’t as yet see any need.

    Emotional/valuing doesn’t need weirdness. It simply means tagging with an emotional reward or warning. Valuing may be rather abstract on many occasions having the quality of an aesthetic experience. A lot of this can come from the associative corteces that become the generators of our metaphorical thinking and allow us a reward (or warning) from just about any kind of cognitive act, even of totally novel things. (“Bright” and “up” and “forwards” are nearly always good…)

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