Snap go the synapses

Written by

Andrew Millar


November 25, 2008

I love cartoons on TV.

I love their lunacy. I love their larger-than-life characters. And I love their silly over-the-top, totally dumb plots.

And I like the fact that if you run off a cliff, you won’t fall until you look down. –Then and only then, you find you are in deep trouble.

But most of the time I love the fact that if you suffer the trauma of a ton of rocks dumped on our chest, you’ll be right and whole in 10 seconds.

I wish life were like that.

Now don’t think I spend all of my spare time in front of the telly. It’s just that I’m sitting in another hotel room in Sydney and I have Nickelodeon on for a dose of nostalgia and company. While travelling with children across America 8 years ago, ‘Hey Arnold’, ‘Sponge Bob’ and my favourite “two ‘Angry Beavers’ were constant companions. And now watching Norb and Dag’s adventures tonight vividly transports me right back to the Hotel Harrington in Washington, just 3 blocks from the White House… and a day, exactly one year to the day before 9/11.

It’s funny how sights, sounds and smells can act like teleports and spirit you emotionally straight back to another time and place.

The summery smell in my car did that to me the other day – in an instant I returned to the time 12 months when I first owned the car.

Though the real physiology of memory is not clearly known. I understand that memories are linked synapses in our brains created in an instant… like a wiring pattern or path that might consist of a million nerve endings… An insignificant trifle of the human brain is involved as it is estimated that our heads contain between 100 to 500 trillion synaptic connections – give or take a few depending on how much beer you drink. Triggers or stimulus of some sort (like a couple of roughly drawn ADHD beavers) can instantly remake those connections. And in your head, you return to a past place, feeling or situation.

It’s the same with physical activities. If you are trying to learn golf, you are trying to make connections in your brain that become strong enough to remain and be repeated over and over and over again. However embedding that pattern in your brain is a little harder than just being somewhere. Rather than an instant, repartition is the name of the game. An action must be drilled. So I’ve been practicing 4 note Flamenco ‘tremolos’ on the guitar while I watch these cartoons.… 4 notes over and over for a half an hour. Perhaps this component of Flamenco will always remind me of two silly beavers and a view of Darling Harbour on a very windy night.