June 11, 2012
The Weight of our Thoughts
Everybody has certain stuff they keep close to them, that they believe will bring them good luck or bring them something that will make their day a little more bearable. These items can range in cost, from costing nothing like a “lucky rock” or a “lucky rabbit’s foot”; to being something real expensive like a pair of “lucky shoes” or a lucky piece of clothing. Either way the things you carry are not always something that can be seen. Sometimes, as in the story “The Things They Carry” by Tim O’Brien, sometimes the heaviest loads are your thoughts, feelings, and memories, for Lt. Jimmy Cross this became dangerously true.
There are certain things people think about every day, a set of recent memories or little songs that keep you happy through the hard times and the good. These things are as natural as breathing, they will just pop in your head out of nowhere, for no reason. For Lt. Jimmy Cross, his thoughts were of a “young girl named Martha, who was a junior at Mount Sebastian College” (O’Brien 337). They were somewhat of pen pals, who wrote of many different things “like her professors and roommates and midterm exams” (O’Brien 337). All these were great but all jimmy wanted was for her to love him more than anything as he did her. “He kept her letters at the bottom of his rucksack and kept the people she had given him” (O’Brien 337). He never stopped thinking about her and imagining kissing her and being with her. Soon enough it was all he was thinking about. He was the Lieutenant of this group and was their leader. His mind was supposed to be focused on one thing; the safety of the group. So the more and more he was thinking of Martha the less he was focusing on his group. This became apparent when one while he was lost in thoughts of Martha one of his men, Ted Lavender, got shot in the head and died on Lt. Cross’s watch, and because he was not thinking of his group he paid a terrible price.
This got me to thinking, how much of our mind is used up by our memories. I found out that our memories can arguably be measured. “Scientists are saying an average brain holds 2.5 petabytes (or a million gigabytes). This amount of memory can hold 3 million hours of TV shows” (Reber). With this information in mind, I started to wonder if he spent, so much time thinking of Martha that he used too much of his memory space and made it hard for him to have room for his dutiful thoughts. The weight of his love for this girl that he carried in his thoughts was what overwhelmed him, not his pack, nor his hard days of walking; it was his love for this girl. That’s what got Ted killed; it could partially be her fault in some people’s way of thinking.
His love and thoughts of her filled so much space and weighed so much that he had to finally cut her off from his mind and life once and for all. This is when he decided to burn all things that could make him think of her and started to devote his whole thinking to the duties ahead and not of Martha (O’Brien). This really makes you think on how much he will really be able to forget about her, and get over the memories she brought him. Will he have the mental strength and will to make him forget before someone else gets hurt? It’s hard to say, how fast he can find a way to focus just on his group and not of Martha because Dr. Joseph M. Carver, Ph.D., Psychologist says that “the brain works as a file system, and memories are like files. The brain pulls one and another at the speed of light. The trick to getting rid of a bad memory is to think of something else and focus on it entirely, because the brain can only pull one file at a time” (Carver). This makes his feat of forgetting her much more manageable task, if he can make himself focus on his task at hand, and his