Humans often behave as though we have an innate maximum capacity imposed like a flat planet’s edge or the arcs of bone surrounding our brains. But to suggest that our knowledge, experience, and overall capacity can be described by a fixed number, even a huge number that is unknown to us, is to put awful limitations to our humanness.
While the brain is limited by the amount of matter that forms it, there are no limits on the soul, which often hovers as an multifold film over both the brain and the heart. When considered together, the brain and the soul open up into vast caverns of knowledge, memory, instinct, spirituality, and the “other”- that which defies explanation but is necessary to make us human.
Take memory, for instance. Once we start to break it down, the immense number of compartments begin to materialize. We find visual-only memories, formed before we knew language, and auditory memories- connected only to sound or music like a massive collection of earworms. There’s olfactory memories, and memories of people and places- both generalized (a library) and specific (grandma’s kitchen). We remember things (hey, a stapler!), emotions, facial expressions and even movements through the ever-present muscle memory.
Each person’s compartments break down differently. I have a knack for remembering peoples’ names, dates and plant taxonomy, of all things, perhaps because those things interest me. My memories often have a visual component but are certainly not photographic. Olfactory memories tend to be emotional for me. Sometimes, I look at my young children and wonder which memory tendencies are already locked in and which are still malleable. For that matter, which tendencies are still malleable for me?