Tuesday, February 24, 2015

"A Simple Point Made With Music And Prose"

I have been suffering from a cold for the past few weeks.  Is it a virus, or a bacterial infection?

I was invited to a hockey game by a friend who’s a financial adviser, and as we drove to the Staples Center, the man explained to me how bonds work, and how their value fluctuates with interest rates.  Or is it inflation?

“Do those paragraphs fit together?”

Indeed they do, blue-highlighted, gender-unspecified “Italics Person.”  And now, this:

“They sing of Yancey Derringer
On every danger trail
On riverboat, in manor house
And now and then in jail.
They say that Yancey Derringer had ruffles at his wrists
Brocade and silver buckles
And iron in his fists.”

“Okay, now, I’m really confused.”

Me too.  But in an entirely different direction.

The preceding assembled factoids land on opposite sides – the first two on one side, the third example on the other – of the Earl Pomerantz unilaterally uncrossable “Retention Line.”

How many times during interludes of bronchial discomfort has a friend generously distinguished on my behalf a virus from a bacterial infection and I still cannot for the life of me remember the difference?

How many times over the twenty-plus years that I have known him has my friend/slash/financial adviser patiently explained to me how bonds work and I am still unable to recall if the determining factor is interest rates or inflation?

And yet:

“Ringo, Johnny Ringo,
His fears were never shown
The fastest gun in all the West
The quickest ever known.”

(An equally obscure second example, to avoid boredom through repetition.)

The answer is easy, you say.

“You are interested in westerns so you remember their theme songs.  The other stuff does not interest you, leaving you unmotivated to assimilate the information.

Oh, really?  It’s that simple? 

I respectfully – though without scientific verification beyond my own Guinea Piggal participation – beg to differ.

A GENEROUS FRIEND:  “Would you like me to explain the difference between a virus and a bacterial infection?”

MY FRIEND/SLASH/FINANCIAL ADVISER:  “Do you want me to tell you (again) how bonds work?”

That is not the way it happened.  This is:

EARLO:  “Can you explain to me the difference between a virus and a bacterial infection?”

EARLO:  “Tell me (again) how bonds work?”

Both of those conversations were initiated by me.  Out of disinterest?  Of course not!  I sincerely wanted to know.  Why?  Because of, respectively, an ongoing medical condition, and a substantial investment in bonds.  This was important and meaningful information.

And yet, it went into my brain and passed immediately right through.

Every single time.

I am interested.  I listen.  But it does not seem to stick. 


On the other hand, certain seemingly meaningless information that went into my brain appears to remain archived in there forever.


The father of a cabin-mate at Camp Ogama in the early 1960’s named Robbie Krangle was the owner of the Cheerio Yoyo and Bo-lo Bat Company.

Why would I remember that? 

I was going to write “Why do I choose to remember that?”  But therein lies my message.

What I seem to remember – and, by extension, me not being some kind of biological anomaly, what people seem to remember – does not appear to be a choice, the product of neither preference, nor interest nor intention.

It is not that I don’t want to retain something.  Over the years, I have attended four separate classes in “Philosophy” at UCLA Extension.  And I do not remember any of it.  I recall, with enjoyment in fact, the ambient philosophical music, but not the tiniest sliver of the content.  And believe me, I was really trying!

Unofficial Conclusion:  People’s proclivities for retention are surprisingly various.  What one person’s brain holds on to, another person’s immediately forgets. 

Is that truly possible?  Two people of equal intelligence, or even unequal intelligence – one’s brain can internalize one category of information and the other’s brain, as hard as they try and as interested as they may be, cannot? 

Hm.  So who then is “The Smart One”?

The person who can rattle off the entire Periodic Table of Elements?

Or the person who can sing:

“He cleaned up the country, the old Wild West country
He made law and order prevail.
And none can deny it, the legend of Wyatt
Forever will live on the trail.”

My vote’s with the latter.

But I may possibly be prejudiced.

“The Smart One”, it turns out, based on the category in question,

May be everyone.
Note: I forgot that I promised yesterday I would do a followup today.  Instead I wrote something completely different  instead.  Did I say "instead" twice in that sentence?  Uh-oh, I may be losing it.  As promised however - but this time I mean it, I will follow up on yesterday's post.  Yesterday, it was "The Anointed Ones."  Tomorrow, or perhaps another day in the future if I forget tomorrow again, why the Anointed Ones can't leave.  Explained substantially by the fact that if they left, they would not be Anointed Ones anymore, but there is a little more to it than that, though I am not at the moment entirely certain what that is.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

There is an alternative possibility: that the people you have chosen to explain to you the difference between bacteria and viruses, and inflation and interest rates (both of which are part of my mental landscape, as it happens, whereas attempts to explain football, baseball, or Westerns to me will fail, and they will fail specifically because I am *not* interested in any of them, but then I won't ask...) may not be good teachers with the gift of presenting these concepts in such a way that they stick to the walls of your mind without falling through.

I think you should conduct a controlled experiment by selecting new explainers.


canda said...

One way to combine finances and football is to simply say, "Pete Carroll's stock has hit bottom".

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