Monday, January 16, 2012

Just How Persistent is Memory?

With news articles about people who've received organ transplants and had sudden changes of habit or personality and movies like Mr. Stitch and the Eye, the question of where exactly our memories or souls are stored in our bodies is quite a big one. Never was this more the case than today, with partial and maybe even whole brain transplants gaining potential in the medical world.

I have speculated previously that the brain itself may be nothing more than a connection point, a translation device that puts the impressions of the soul into thought and feeling forms that our consciousness can understand and express. In time we can learn to trust a more direct communication from the soul via our intuition and inner voice, bypassing the brain itself. (this is, in basic form, a goal of eastern Buddhism)

In the past, when heart transplants first became a reality, people commonly accepted that the soul centered on the heart and that transplantation of the heart would replace a person's soul. Now that the surgery is common, there are reports of people who have had significant personality changes but not everyone experiences this. Cells and chemicals that are thought to participate in memory storage have been found throughout the body, not just in the brain as was previously thought.

So are our memories stored in our brains, our hearts, our entire bodies, or possibly even our very DNA? Or, are the memories stored elsewhere and accessed by our bodies?

In Greek medicine and other traditions, the organs each relate to certain emotions and are even governed by those emotions (or vice versa). This is where the concept of dying of a broken heart comes from - that the emotional stress of love lost is so great it can actually stop your heart. The throat is tied to communication, and it is believed that if you're holding back an important truth or not communicating your feelings, it can cause problems with the throat including a loss of the ability to speak. Such it goes with all of the internal organs, each dominating or relating to an emotional response and diseases of that organ being thought to be caused by related emotional distress. People who have certain personality traits tend to have similar appearances. People who have similar genetic predispositions tend to have similar appearances and personality traits. I'm referring to people outside of direct family lines who are not related within at least three or four generations, often so many generations that finding a link would take a vast amount of research.

It is also relevant to consider that medical and emotional patterns tend to run in families, both determined by genetics to some extent, even among family members who've never been close or barely known each other. Adopted children who've never known their families can have personality traits resembling those of their genetic families.

A question of the recollection of past lives comes up as well, are we genetically retaining the memories of our genetic ancestors? Or are those memories coming from our souls?

Are we nothing more than the sum of our parts? If it were possible to transplant our brains into another body, it would seem that one way or another we would no longer be ourselves. Whether because of connection to the soul (which ties to more of the body than just the brain) or our personalities being within the sum of our organs not just the brain, it seems we would lose something of ourselves.

These questions also would apply to cloning - if our DNA and thusly organs and brain are the sum total of who we are, then a clone should have every memory that we do, because they would have the same DNA. The new "us" would be identical to us in every way, except that from the moment of first consciousness new memories would begin to form which would diverge the two personalities. Also, in cloning, what of disease? If a person is infected with a disease, say Polio, and cloned, would they retain themselves whilst "defeating" the infection and it's consequences? It's safe to assume the new clone would not retain physical damage such as removed organs, scars, etc, but they would have the memories of receiving that physical damage.

It seems the biggest question in religion, medicine and science is what is it that makes us who we are? Where is that piece of the puzzle coming from, or are portions of our personality and memory stored throughout our beings? Would each of us be exactly who we are had we been born with a different soul?

I feel as though some change occurs when a different soul is born into a body than may originally have been planned. Whether to the benefit of fulfilling a mission in life or the result of someone else choosing not to fulfill a mission and causing a change in the pattern of births, I'm sure that this happens somewhere along the line.

In my own case, prior to my birth there were some pretty solid plans in place. Then something changed. All at once, I was to receive a different name and grow up in a different location, and know different people than I would have. Even my birth date changed, as I was born two weeks late and even that late there had been no labor, no contractions, as if I was attempting to wait even longer for my birth. If you consider astrology, numerology and childhood environment, every piece changed dramatically from what was expected at about 3 months in utero to the conditions at my birth. The factors which changed who I was to be impacted the lives of a few other people quite dramatically. Yet, the genetic aspect remained unchanged.

So, just how persistent is memory? Does it travel through DNA of generations or is it remembered by our souls and accessed partially by our brains? Are types of feelings or emotions triggered within certain organs or do they also come from our souls?

Are our bodies like computers with the soul acting as the hard drive? You can pull a hard drive out of any computer and plug it into another computer, which will then function mostly as the original did.

It seems this is just another series of questions asking "who are we, really?". Will we ever find the answers?

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