We’ve long known how memories fade over time into just the kernels of their meaning. After time, most of the details that we recall are only fictionalized details, filling in the gaps around the important narrative.
In a study out of the Universities of Glasgow and Birmingham published last week in Nature Communications, researchers were able to quantify this process of “gistification” for the first time.
It seems to me that writers and artists already understand this process instinctively, and it has to do with what we always talk about as “truth.” Facts are the verifiable details, but they often don’t really matter to the deeper meaning that we call “truth.” A poem can be factually wrong, but still be true. And over time, our memories operate in the same way, because they have the same goal—extracting meaning from the unwieldy chaos of our human lives.
The semantic elements are what matter.
you almost remember
what it means