The Mostly Universal Sweetness of the "Good Old Days"

As I was going through emails this morning I followed a link that purported to explain why we don't remember much of our early childhood. There was a short piece about how memories before the age of three are largely forgotten by everyone, if I understood correctly, because they were never really formed.

It described a series of experiments on mice and hamsters of different ages using shocks and what not, and more or less ended up saying that babies have a about 25% of the number of  neurons in their brains as an adult while they create new synapses at a spectacular rate (700-1000 new synapses per second) and at this rate of synapse creation (learning) memories are not formed in a permanent fashion, unlike those of slightly older humans who have reined in the explosive rate of learning.

Just reviewing the thoughts above make me wonder what it would be like to experience that again as an older specimen. It would be completely disorienting as we older folks try to make sense of everything we see. We try to categorize, and group things. We try to see patterns in events, Cause and effect. We create narratives with beginnings and middles and ends, so that the world that happens around us makes sense and that sense reassures us.

What if some of the problems that we sometimes see in others or even ourselves were caused by a sudden return to that rate of learning? In this piece we call it learning, but if we saw it first hand now, we probably wouldn't be able to cope with it and it would incapacitate us and send us to the floor screaming, head in hands.

Only a newborn infant could mentally withstand the onslaught because it begins as an empty reptilian presence. Only the lack of intellect could survive that savage phase of development. Imagine what that was like. Like watching volcanoes create land.

I need to find out more about what regulates synapse formation on a widespread scale. I've read about the overabundance of synapses formed during childhood and that adolescence is a time of pruning back connections. Adulthood from a neurological sense is a more static time of slow deliberate neuronal and synaptic formation.

Neurological infancy must look look a wildfire that leaves intelligence and order instead of ash and death.

Maybe it's only when the conflagration of uncontrolled absorption begins to progressively slow in the fourth year that the joy of innate, undirected learning comes to live inside the growing mind. Maybe that's what we remember as the joyous days of childhood. While we connect that feeling to the time and the place and the people that surrounded us, it was only ever what we carried inside us that we missed. Maybe it's that feeling that some of us search for, for the rest of our lives in music, alcohol, art, drugs, relationships, meditation, camping, religion. All of the things that, as adults, consume and obsess us. All of the things that we preach and sing and write about. Maybe it's all the echo of what it was like to take in the world around us without judgment. To experience with wonder and with excitement for the next moment. Back in those days before memory, when the fire of connection consumed us and made us human.

Wowser! that's a bit too deep for an old mind.

More later,


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