Memory Is a Spark to Momentum, Momentum Triggers and Sustains Memory

Posted on December 10, 2009 by


There was a Nike basketball commercial once upon a time that mentioned the momentum of a good streak of making baskets as the counter to fatigue or being tired.

“I never heard one ball player yet, who says, ‘My arm is tired.’ You see, your arms never get tired. Not when it’s going in.”

Nike Commercial

I think there’s some truth to that; you aren’t likely to be as tired when you’ve got positive momentum going for you. Something you do for fun or addiction, you do almost without regard to how tired you are. I can spend hours upon hours even after midnight waiting for people to argue with me on sports message boards. I can play Tetris over and over. That’s positive momentum towards an activity (and perhaps negative momentum towards productivity). This positive momentum helps you forget fatigue and the burden of bad memories.

Conversely, if you’re staring down the prospect of some paper, a boring lecture, a test, or feel that have no connection to, you’re probably going to feel tired pretty quickly. You’re not going to want to finish get in it, or whatever. That’s negative momentum and it makes you remember bad memories and takes the bad with you and then you stop.

I think momentum in general towards any direction helps activate memories, for better or worse. A physical, a metaphorical moving in a direction helps activate memories, for better or worse.

As I read Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia, I was struck by the description of a man, a former world class musician, with no memory of anything that happened even just 30 seconds ago. He could remember his wife and some semantics, but was stuck in the 1960s, and only temporarily in the moment. The weird thing was that his amnesia did not affect his ability to play his music.

View the video of the man with the 7 second memory

As you see in the video, the momentum of playing the piano knowing from one key to the next helped the man’s memory at least in that task. He still can’t recall any episodes or what happened just 30 seconds ago, but he can still remember how to play the piano. I think the momentum, perhaps the rhythm of tapping keys in the songs he plays just offers him a rich trigger to what immediately comes next.

As momentum can help memory, I also think memory itself can also help stop or initiate/maintain momentum.

Momentum is a tendency of an object to keep going in the direction it is already traveling. Memory can be a tool most of us have to maintain momentum or stop momentum. Momentum can carry you in any so-called direction of life. Memory can act as the spark, accelerator or break towards that direction.

For all practical purposes, our memories help us to recall, recognize events, good people, sayings, commercials, books, quotes, not perfectly, but a least some nugget of it.  These nuggets of memory don’t mean much to the external world, unless we somehow act because of, or in spite of those events, people, saying, commercials, books, quotes. I can remember the first time I failed a math class and the memory of that has kept me a bit aversive towards anything dealing with math. I can remember getting accepted to my high school and college, and that’s kept me a bit confident moving forward towards intellectual and academic activity.

Sometimes these memories can drag on you, sometimes they can uplift you.

Sometimes memories can even be false; it doesn’t matter what actually happened, just what you remembered, and how you work and respond off of what you remember. It is at this point of false memories, where memory can be sort of a self-help tool, filtering out the bad and running with the good. You can sort of choose to hazily remember what’s good and run with that or you can drown in a cesspool of bad memories, as if that’s all you can be.

At any rate, I think that momentum in a direction helps trigger memory whether bad or good, and memory can give an initial spark to momentum.