Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Are We Really Remembering What We Think We Are Remembering?

I am writing a new nonfiction book this year. This book is a long time coming! I was supposed to get started on writing this book in 2018! The reason I couldn’t was because, after I got sick in late 2017, it was a LONG TIME before I was able to write again. But, yes, I am finally writing this book now. And because it is nonfiction, it requires extensive research.


When it comes to doing research, I am not one of those people who relies on just the Internet. I don't want my nonfiction books to say the same things people will find on the Internet! I want something new, unknown and original. I prefer to include as many different forms of information as possible: Magazines, books, even newsletters. I will also watch documentaries, TV interviews and other TV programs to support my research. Interviewing people helps, too. I have training in news writing, and it was hammered into my head to NEVER rely on just one source for information. While it’s important to use a legit source, try to use as many as possible. (And for the record, this book is actually not "my" book per se. It's a ghostwriting project! It's "mine" while I work on it, but after it's done, it becomes the property of someone else.)


Books are definitely one source of information that I use for research. In fact, I try to have as many books as possible on the subject I am currently writing about, and right now, the ones I have are all on my writing desk ready to be snapped up for my perusal.


There is one book that I have been reading about on my book’s subject and, last night, while I was doing the usual of setting aside some time to read it, I discovered something that blew away any inklings I had about including this particular thing in my book. It pretty much made me decide not to include it, because I learned that all the stories and so-called “video footage” used to spread this theory were all LIES!


Of course, I was outraged. This sort of thing is actually a big part of our culture. It’s been commercialized, bandied about in TV shows and movies, and there are even conventions about it. But what I learned in that book was that everything said about it was NOT true!


I was so incensed that I honestly could not continue reading that book. I mean, why waste my time? If it was all a lie, then I should not even bother entertaining the notion of including it in my book.


However, after I calmed down and got over the shock, I paged through the rest of the book. I realized that I was actually almost done reading it! I really don’t like to leave a book unfinished (though I actually did do that yesterday with another book I returned unfinished on Kindle, because the author was babbling nonsense, failing to make a point, and it was all, well, just stupid), so I decided to keep reading it.


I’m actually glad I did.


For one thing, I am a huge history buff, and I was pleased to come across historical information that I really didn’t know about. And for another thing, I began to understand what it was that contributed to all the lies spread about this topic.


Or, rather, not so much lies, but inaccurate recollections of what REALLY happened.


Everything built off of this type of thing came from one so-called “witness” to the event. And the reports in this book broke down EVERYTHING the witness claimed to have happened. And as I read more about it, I began to see that perhaps this witness wasn’t really lying, but mostly he was just confused. (And, yes, it is one thing to lie and another thing to be confused. They ARE NOT the same thing!) A lot of the things he claimed to have happened on that day actually happened at other times. The people he claimed were there were actually people he confused with someone else. The things he THOUGHT that he saw were actually something else entirely from something he didn’t even know about – but, unfortunately, he made his own assumptions about what they were. There was also the fact that certain governmental agencies were following protocols and outdated rules to explain why certain things happened the way they happened – all protocols and rules this witness was not aware of. Additionally, he was interviewed much later after the event, and by that time, he got his timelines confused and his memory of people and events were not entirely accurate.


The other thing that went wrong is that he was the only “witness” used to promote the lie that something happened that DIDN’T happen. Fake sources were used in the convoluted claims and authoritative figures who participated were forgotten about.


But never mind all that. The witness was CERTAIN of what he saw. He was adamant that he was remembering everything accurately and that everything he said was true. And someone decided to run with that and turn it into a whole “conspiracy theory” and make it out to be something that it wasn’t. The so-called “eyewitness” accounts of people who were not even there were taken as gospel and the video footage created to make it look like it came from a verified source were all fake. It was all lies and unfortunately some people were gullible enough to believe all that.


After I read all of that information in the book, I was reminded about one truism: Memory is fallible. We think we are remembering things accurately, but there’s a chance we're not. There is always a chance that we are not getting our facts right or we are not remembering things right.


I was reminded of this very truth recently. I was going through emails I had received from my co-author many years ago. I was certain that I had received an email from her saying a certain thing. But I searched all of the emails from her and found out that I actually HAD NOT received that very email! (In case anybody is wondering, it’s about me discussing a timeline for writing a book with Martha.) I was stunned. I really thought I had that email, but I did not. And now all this time, I was under the assumption that I DID get that email, that she knew about what was going on, and that everything was just peachy!


Emails are just one of the things that I use to see if I am remembering things accurately. I save A LOT of emails, especially the ones about important things, and I often have to go back and look through them for certain pieces of information or to hunt down documents. (You can take the reporter out of the journalism class but you’ll never take the journalism class out of the reporter. LOL) I also use old blog posts, journal entries and even photographs to see if I am remembering things correctly. However, there are SOME things that happened that I still to this day cannot explain and, unfortunately, were not recorded in a journal or blog post.


The other day, my youngest asked me what is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to me. I told him about the time when I was living in a little house in the California desert, and one day, I tried to walk into my kitchen to get something to eat. However, I was not able to walk into the kitchen, because I ran into what appeared to be an invisible wall. I am 100% serious about this! It was an actual “wall” or barrier that I could not get past. I even pressed against it and it was very firm. So strange! I walked back to the couch and sat down. I thought about this and, eventually, I remembered reading about how the pentagram is a symbol used to repel evil spirits and bad energy. I decided to try using it! (I was a practicing Wiccan at the time.) So I drew a pentagram on my hand and, holding my hand up in front of me, I walked towards the kitchen. I was able to walk through that invisible barrier and never again had that kind of problem. I can tell that story with certainty because it really did happen and I guess it was so bizarre that I remember every detail about it. I know it happened that way and I do not question anything about that incident at all.


However, even so, it is still a good idea to check. I wish I had written about this incident but I had not. (I can just now imagine an old coworker saying, “Document! Document! Document!”) I am sure that if I had written this down in my journal, I would have looked for it before retelling that story. But unfortunately I hadn't. Even more unfortunately, I was alone when it happened! I don’t remember if I told anyone about it.


So, yes, it is still good to look up the facts, if they are available! I have to even question myself. My memory is not all that great so when I can, I will look up the journal entry, blog post or photo, or ask somebody who was there to see it. (Seriously! I have even saved online chats and phone conversations!)


Sadly, though, some people do not take such measures. They are so convinced that they are right, so their words should not be questioned or checked. Personally, I question everything. I don’t believe things just because someone is sharing it on social media; I track it down to see if it’s true. Because THAT is what I want to know. I want to know the truth! (And I can indeed handle the truth!)


The truth is out there. You just gotta know where to look for it.        


Labels: , , , , , ,