An article in today's newspaper reports that scientists have
confirmed the brain's tendency to fill in missing informationdetails
that are just beyond physical means of perceptionwith information
derived from what we have already experienced. I walk down the street and
believe I glimpse Felice: a slim, dark-haired woman fashionably dressed.
Her face is a blur; I am too far away to discern the exact tilt of her
nose, the slope of her chin, the color of her eyes. But because the woman's
general aspect matches what I know of Felice, my memoryand my desire
fills in the rest. I will go to bed that night convinced that I had seen her,
just as someone might lie awake believing that the figure he saw
running from a robbery scene was the building janitor, or Uncle Max, or
the innocent man in the line-up who suddenly seems familiar. Memory is
neither a means of reconstruction, nor a literal record of the past. It is
the parasitic, biological force of deception asserting itself in nature
against the law of entropy and inevitability of erosion. It is
anti-forensic and resists argument as the immune system resists infection.
For this reason I will believe everything a witness says in the instant of
time he or she takes to say it, as though I were watching a shooting star,
or a sunflower flexing at the first touch of morning heat.
© 2002 Electronic