Voluntary memory, the memory of the intellect and the eyes, [gives] us only imprecise facsimiles of the past which no more resemble it than pictures by bad painters resemble the spring…. So we don’t believe that life is beautiful because we don’t recall it, but if we get a whiff of a long-forgotten smell we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead, because we don’t remember them, but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.
The saddest thing about life is that you don’t remember half of it. You don’t even remember half of half of it. Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth. I have this friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers. If he remembers dropping an ice cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he’ll write it down. The last time I talked to Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories. He’s the only guy I know who remembers his life. He said he captures memories, because if he forgets them, it’s as though they didn’t happen; it’s as though he hadn’t lived the parts he doesn’t remember.
I thought about that when he said it, and I tried to remember something. I remembered getting a merit badge in Cub Scouts when I was seven, but that’s all I could remember. I got it for helping a neighbor cut down a tree. I’ll tell that to God when he asks what I did with my life. I’ll tell him I cut down a tree and got a badge for it. He’ll most likely want to see the merit badge, but I lost it years ago, so when I’m done with my story, God will probably sit there looking at me, wondering what to talk about next. God and Bob will probably talk for days.
I know I’ve had more experiences than this, but there’s no way I can remember everything. Life isn’t memorable enough to remember everything. It’s not like there are explosions happening all the time or dogs smoking cigarettes. Life is slower. It’s like we’re all watching a movie, waiting for something to happen, and every couple months the audience points at the screen and says, “Look, that guy’s getting a parking ticket.” It’s strange the things we remember.
The proportion of viewers who were aware that, with the proper treatment, there is more than a 90% chance of an HIV-positive woman having a healthy baby increased by 46 percentage points after the episode aired (from 15% to 61%). This includes 17% of respondents in the post-show survey who volunteered the specific response that the woman has a 98% chance of having a healthy baby—the statistic that was repeated several times on the show.
Six weeks after the episode aired, the proportion who gave the correct response had dropped to 45%, but was still substantially higher (by 30 percentage points) than it had been prior to the show. This time around, however, only 3% volunteered the specific fact that the woman would have a 98% chance of having a healthy baby.