I'm presently torn between two alternative means of interpreting the uninterpretable. Because I'm a lit-git, I'm tempted to go with the unscientific advice Gertrude Stein belatedly offered her mentor William James:
[Y]ou do not really believe yourself why should you, you know so well so very well that it is not yourself, it could not be yourself because you cannot remember right and if you do remember right it does not sound right and of course it does not sound right because it is not right.
That I'm the sole source of that seminal articulation of the grit that chokes the gears of our cognitive grind to a halt is a national tragedy . . . because how are there no modernists whose Steinian veins have bled out and into Google more stainingly than mine? (I'm not even a modernist anymore you know.) Now where was I?
I do not really believe myself why should I, I know so well that it is not myself, it could not be myself because I cannot remember right and if I do remember right it does not sound right and of course it does not sound right because it is not right.
That would be where I was. But keeping in mind my abiding interest in things neurological—I did write a chapter on the Founding Father of American Neurology after all—you probably won't be surprised to learn that I've spent the past few days researching why it does not sound right and of course it does not sound right because it is not right. Then Jonathan Dresner damn near channeled Stein in his comment the other night:
Memory is a funny[.]*
It is. Jonathan's story of seeing a pink bow in a black-and-white cartoon is a poignant funny that also happens to be relevant, as I'm currently seeing things that I couldn't have seen, e.g. I remember seeing the car slam into the semi's trailer even though, as I mentioned in the original post, the fog was so thick I couldn't even see the semi once it passed me. So why do I think I saw what I couldn't have seen?
My brain did the math. It calculated what must have happened between the time I last saw the car in my mirror and where it landed and then turned that understanding of what must have happened into a memory of having witnessed it happen. So even though I couldn't have seen the crash occur, I'm burdened by a nightmare-inducing memory of it. Intellectually, I know this to be the result of garden-variety non-pathological confabulation, indicative of nothing more than the procedural drills required to produce an unbroken experience of consciousness; emotionally and ethically, however, it feels wrong to bear witness to a tragedy that I did not, in fact, witness.
Put differently: I know my eyes have two blind spots (punctum caecum) because there are no rods and cones where the optic nerve exits the eye and that the brain fills in details to occupy that absence; however, I've never felt betrayed by this perceptual white lie before, or that there was anything ethically dubious to the claim that I "saw" something that was actually in a blind spot. My brain behaved no differently in reconstructing my memory of the crash than it does when it allows me to experience an unbroken field of vision, yet there does seem to be something ethically dubious about its behavior here. Moreover, the fact that it performed this reconstruction in order to torment my sleep with visions of it strikes me as an appalling cosmi-cognitive joke.
*Had he been less concerned that his words accord with the dictates of English, I don't doubt that Jonathan would've embraced his inner lesbian modernist and went with the impactively tacky "Memory is a funny" over that grammatical sentence he actually wrote.