Maybe it’s because I have this focus where everything is filtered through core events, but I was watching TED the other day, and ran across a talk by David Griffin, the photography director for National Geographic.
It was mostly pictures, and a little bit about how perspective changes when you stay with a subject long enough and how to communicate that to other people, but what really struck me was his swimming story. I’m not strong on images—I’m more text-driven, but when he described how his son was learning to swim and he turned away, just for a second and the riptide swept his kid away...out toward the rocks. And everything crystallized into this one "image" the rocks, the wave about to crash down on his son and his kid, arms outstretched, screaming, “Help me, Dad!”
It’s called "flashbulb memory." One crystal pure instant--visuals, emotions, smells, sounds, everything, all at once.
And I think it’s the reason some core events have more impact. A core event is still a focal point, but a core event that contains a flashbulb memory would be even more of a driver because there’s a stronger impact in a shorter amount of time.
When I was a kid, I used to get drunk and party—lots of people do, but I have this flashbulb memory—falling down drunk, hanging upside-down, drooling in my hair, this big gray cat, an old-fashioned kitchen that smelled like kitty litter and this woman. My future mother-in-law. Can’t say I didn’t make an impression. Right after she chewed my boyfriend out for bringing me home, she told him to throw me back in the car and dump me somewhere.
Every time I reach for a drink, I see her face. So help me, I stopped drinking right then and there, and sometimes I wonder if my control issues also flow from that core event.
It's all about intensity. Like alcohol, you get a stronger effect when it's distilled.