Wired just published an incredibly intriguing long read on Susie McKinnon, a woman who literally lives in the present. Though McKinnon is fully aware of events that have happened in her life, she’s unable to relive the emotions that we usually attach to say, a holiday, the birth of a child, or the death of a loved one. But while McKinnon may not remember what has shaped her into who she is, she does have a distinct personality and is well aware of who she is.
Researchers think that the crux to understanding the mystery of McKinnon’s selective memory lies in the difference between our so called semantic memory – which relates to the general knowledge we have acquired over time, such as the time table of the bus, the recipe of a favorite dish, or the constellation of the stars – and our episodic memory – which allows us to vividly recall past events or sensations.
The inability to savor one’s memories may sound like a big loss. But McKinnon doesn’t see the point of keeping a diary or taking photos. “If I get so obsessed with capturing every moment because I’m afraid of losing the memory, I’m never going to experience those moments,” she says.
And unlike most of us, McKinnon is impervious to the sadness, anger and pain of traumas. She can live each day and approach each relationship without being weighed down by emotional baggage from the past. Being unable to piece together the past, McKinnon is equally unable to imagine the future. But unlike most of us, she truly lives in the moment.
(cartoon: Jerry King)