Wednesday, August 14, 2013

I read an article about how if you make a flatworm learn a maze and then cut off its head, it still remembers how to navigate the maze. Which is no surprise, right? We already knew that we keep our memories laced everywhere, wrapped around our nerves and branching all through our limbs. We can feel them there, humming, as we move through space.

I was thinking about that Australian cryptid, the yara-ma-yha-who, who drops on you from a tree and siphons out your blood to make you weak. Once you can't fight back it eats you all up, has a drink of water, and takes a nap. Refreshed, it vomits you back out, shorter and a little red. It repeats this process a few times until you turn into one of it. This seems like an extraordinarily bad set of memories to have baked into your bones, but I don't suppose we get to choose the memories we keep.

But more interesting anyway is the memories afterward, once you have been made into a yara-ma-yha-who, destined now to spend the foreseeable future dropping out of trees and eating people. If you are transformed, do you keep your memories? If you turn a flatworm into a golden retriever, can it navigate the maze? We spend so much effort trying to keep our memories that it turns out I have no idea what one has to do to shed them. And anyway most of the time a flatworm stays a flatworm, shot through with the mazes it has run before.

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