Our Collective Memory Lasts Thousands of Years

forest and river

When European explorers made first contact with peoples around the world both cultures changed. Unfortunately for those being contacted they were changed by a lot of diseases and exploitation (sadly the exploitation continues to this day). Europeans also ignored the long history of the peoples they met and devalued their oral traditions. A recent example of this in Canada is around the discovery of the HMS Terror.

Globally there are many stories that can be traced back to events thousands of years ago. It’s only now that the traditional sciences are listening to these stories because physical evidence can be found using modern techniques.

The extraordinary antiquity of such stories, which represent knowledge passed on largely orally, was not demonstrable until recently. This has allowed the full extent and implications of the longevity of the memories on which these stories are based to be appreciated. Another such oral history surrounds the Klamath people of Oregon, in the western U.S., who tell of a time when there was no Crater Lake, only a giant volcano towering over the landscape where the lake is today. As the story goes, the fractious volcano god, besotted with a local beauty, threatened the Klamath with fury and fire unless the woman acquiesced. But her people called upon their protector—a rival deity—who fought the volcano god, eventually causing his mountain home to collapse in on him and fill with water. For the next approximately 7,600 years, the Klamath taught each new generation the importance of avoiding Crater Lake lest they disturb the evil god within. With remarkable precision, geologists have determined that this is the time of the terminal eruption of the former volcano, Mount Mazama, and the creation of the landscape that exists today. The Klamath were there all along, and their memories of that ancient cataclysmic event have passed into global knowledge today.

Read more.

Remembering Tiananmen Square

25 years ago in Tiananmen Square there was a protest against the Chinese government. The protest was dealt with lethal force by the government – killing many people. Since then, the Chinese government has blocked any discussion about the protest and has greatly censored information on it. Obviously all of this isn’t good news.

To curtail the efforts of propaganda artists and censors in China there are groups that are trying to ensure that we don’t forget about the protest. This is good because if we forget our collective history we deny ourselves a richer, more knowledgable, existence. If we don’t remember the people who stood up then we are joining the efforts of the government that censored their protest.

The Tiananmen Initiative Project aims to reignite discussion of the meaning of the Spring 1989 movement in China and the as yet unfulfilled promise of genuine political reform its participants sought. We aim to do this by encouraging various kinds of public meetings around the world around the time of the twenty-fifth anniversary – April 15-June 4, 2014 – of what has aptly been called the Beijing Spring.

Check out the Tiananmen Initiative Project.
An article on Tiananmen at NPR.

Learning something? Better Have a Nap

Having a nap in the afternoon can help your brain function – particularly for remembering things. I do enjoy a good nap every so often and now I think’ll make a habit of it.

Researchers in the U.S. studied 39 young adults who were divided into two groups. At noon, study participants took a memory test that required them to remember faces linked to names.

Of those in the study, 20 took a nap for 100 minutes. All of the volunteers were then retested at 6 p.m.

Those who stayed awake did about 10 per cent worse on the tests compared with those who napped, Matthew Walker of University of California at Berkeley said. He presented the preliminary findings Sunday at the American Association of the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego.

The more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish the brain becomes, the study suggests.

Normally, the ability to learn declines between noon and 6 p.m., but a nap seemed to fight off the decline.

Keep reading at the CBC

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