Being Gifted

Three years ago, I attended a poetry reading hosted by my religious fellowship. A man stood up, and presented a poem about the first family. It cast a satirical eye on the power that women have over men, and took nearly twenty minutes to recite. Afterwards, I asked him how long it took him to learn it, and when. His reply surprised me: "I was given it by a friend."

The formation of long-term memories is a mystery. We know that it has something to do with the hypothalamus, for damage to it prevents the accumulation of memories. Why this should be is unknown - the hypothalamus is not tightly coupled to the cortex. But I have a conjecture. I have asserted that memories are not stored in the brain; they are read out of time by a redundant layer of the cortex. My guess is that the hypothalamus creates a charged knot in time that can serve as a reference point for entraining memory.

If that is so, it may be possible for our intimates to show us that knot, and allow us to live that experience.

My sense is that this was a skill far more prevalent in primitive cultures, before the invention of the written word. The transfer of knowledge, under those circumstances, would have been a much deeper process than reading is today. It would have involved sights, smells, tactile sensations and emotions in great detail. For a child, this may have been overwhelming: the experience may have deeply imprinted the personality of the adult on the child. The advantage of the written word may in fact be in the greater degree of autonomy the child has in assimilating experiences offered from the past. That allows him or her the freedom to explore a greater range of futures.

There is no doubt, though, that all of us experience the process of memory transfer at some time in our lives. It is just that in our age that transfer is superficial. Our thirst for the work of actors may indeed be that, as other artists, they have the skill to reawaken us to the apprehension of that talent. The artist, in consummating a great work, creates a manifestation of an emotional or physical event that has the power to entrain us in the most powerful aspects of their experience.

When I first came to understand this process, I took a different view of the craft and artist guilds of the Renaissance. Rembrandt signing his name to a work largely constructed by his student, with only the finishing touches coming from his hand, cannot be considered an act of hypocrisy. The talent of the student was the master's.

As a child, to be recognized as "gifted" was a mark of talent, generally attibuted to the favor of God. At this time, I believe that many of those gifts are actually called unconsciously out of time and space from people that resonate with our personality. More recently, I have experienced episodes in which I was consciously aware of being given such a gift. Consciousness and respectful recognition of the giving is a valuable gift in return. While we are the agent through which dreams may be manifested, the scope of the dreaming is sustained and enlarged when our supporters are explicitly honored for contributing to our mastery.