The Author

Memory

I have noticed the last couple of weeks the attention that is being paid to a unique group in society. These individuals are recognized as having HSAM, an acronym for Highly Superior Autobiographical Memory. Simply, and probably inadequately, described, these folks are able to remember every detail of what happened to them on any date that you ask. For example, picking a date at random, if you ask them what happened to them on January 17, 1987, they can tell you everything from what time they awakened to what they had for supper, and everything in between.

This memory doesn’t necessarily translate to being good in math, remembering formulas for equations without effort; nor does it mean that they would win on a quiz show, remembering names and places that the rest of us struggle with. This memory is much more personal, the kind of memory that remembers the victories and never forgets the defeats. The details of these memories never fade.

As well as I can remember, I’ve never met anyone with this gift. I have known some folks who seem to come close by constantly talking about some great victory in the past (the good old days) or not being able to let go of a wound that still stings after thirty years, but I’ve never met anyone who has the gift of remembering every minute of every day that they have lived.

I have said that it is a gift, and I suppose that one can call it that, but it is one that I am glad that I have not been given. Knowing myself as poorly as I do, I still know that I lean toward dwelling on the past, reveling in the glory, wallowing in the failures. Fortunately, I do not remember all of them. I don’t want to think about the kind of life that would be.

I am also not convinced that this “gift” is from God. As I read the scriptures, the kind of God it describes is one who knows us better than we know ourselves, knowing “our lying down and our rising up” (Ps.139:2-3). He is the kind of God who, when our failures would otherwise overwhelm us, “puts them as far away as the East is from the West” (Psalm 103:12). The apostle Paul knew him as the God who isn’t as interested in what we have done as He is in what He can do with us (Phil. 3).

I am fascinated by these folks who can remember every detail. In a sense, they are a wonder to me. But I am glad that I don’t have their kind of memory. I much prefer the kind God has.