Peak Perspectives: Time Travel

*Note: This audio essay first aired on KRCC (Colorado Springs’ NPR affiliate, 91.5 FM) on November 19, 2020. The link to the program is here; the audio file and the text from the essay are below.

I skipped Feb. 11 this year. Never had it. Not just me, but my wife too, aboard our plane as we flew across the International Date Line to visit New Zealand. 

We lost a day but we gained some insight. 

The trip was to reconnect with places that’re emotionally significant to us. We went to the hospital where our daughter was born, and rekindled one of our most precious shared memories.

But it doesn’t take a ticket to make this magic. You don’t need to go to New Zealand.

You just need to be you.

Endel Tulving, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, was the first to describe our episodic memory versus our semantic memory. Semantic memory is pure fact, like: my daughter was born at Wellington Regional Hospital or Denver is the capital of Colorado.

But episodic memory is our ability to re-experience and remember past personal events, like my daughter was born on a day that rained so hard it looked like liquid lightsabers were shooting up all around the Wellington hospital. That’s etched in my memory.

There are a lot of ways we can do this memory time travel. Touch a family heirloom, watch an old movie, write in a journal, call an older relative to tell you a story. 

It’s an imperfect and limited time machine – but if we look hard enough, we just might catch a glimpse of our future by recalling a moment from our past.

Be good, be well, be outside as much as you can to stay safe as you can. Until next week, no matter what, climb on.

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