What happens when your brain fills up?
by Dale Short
Jun 13, 2013 | 442 views | 0 0 comments | 77 77 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dale Short
Dale Short
Note: This column originally appeared in the Daily Mountain Eagle in May 2010.

I finally figured out what my problem is: my brain is full.

Don’t laugh. Think about it. No matter what kind of computer storage device you buy these days, from a thundering shoebox-sized hard drive to a tiny baby SD card, it’s clearly labeled on its package as to exactly how much digital information it will hold.

When you receive a message on your computer screen that your device is full, you’ve got two choices: either erase it and start over from scratch, or else buy a new, blank storage device and start filling it up with new stuff.

So, why should our human brains (on which computers are obviously based) be any different?

The difference is this: whether the brain that each of us is born with is small, medium, or large, its storage capacity is, by definition, finite. But unlike in computer heaven, we can neither erase our brain nor buy a brand-new empty one. To put it bluntly, we as humans must dance with the brain, and all its contents, what brung us. Until, as in the proverbial gospel song, they ring those golden bells for you and me.


From the rough personal research I’ve done, I’ve determined that my own brain is filled roughly 75 percent with music and lyrics, mostly the great Oldies of my childhood and adolescence. I was skeptical when I first heard the promo on Oldies 101.5 that says, “We play the songs you know all the words to!” because my memory is so terrible these days.     

But I DO know them. And not just the words, but also what a piece of today’s computer software calls the “associated peripheral data.” When The Doors take a keyboard break on “Light My Fire,” I think to myself, “Wow, that Ray Manzarek was something else, in his prime.” I made no effort to memorize any of this stuff. It’s just there. When I hear any hit single by Linda Ronstadt from that decade, I have a vivid memory of the photos in “Rolling Stone” magazine of Ronstadt’s national tour in which she performed onstage in a somewhat skimpily-cut Boy Scout uniform. That wardrobe choice made no logical sense to my teenaged self at the time, but it, ah...moved me deeply, shall we say.

But, enough of the devil’s music.

Due to my mom’s love of books and to the world’s greatest English teacher, Mrs. Pearl Huffman, another 20 percent of my brain consists of quotes from Shakespeare, classic poetry and (via my grandparents and Shanghi Baptist Church) hundreds of verses of scripture.

The remaining five percent of my full brain is composed of obscure technical data from engineering school, off-color limericks and historical trivia that is not of interest to anyone under the age of 30 unless he/she is a mechanical engineer and very lonely.

It always aggravates me when I hear writing teachers tell their students, “Write about what you know.” Except for the songs and the literature, the facts I know are not even interesting to me, and I certainly wouldn’t expect anybody to pay money to read about them. As a result, I make most of my living by writing for magazines about stuff that I DON’T know. What I would love to replace (or in computer terms, “over-write”) some of this brain data with is the date of my next dentist appointment. (It’s written in my pocket calendar, but often I can’t find my pocket calendar.) Or else, with the name of the new potential client I just shook hands with, after making my business presentation. The guy told me his name twice, and my namesake Dale Carnegie would bury his head in shame that I forgot it both times and still don’t know this person from Adam. (Business cards and Internet directories are a godsend, these days.)

But until some genius invents portable storage devices that plug into the human brain, you’ll see me walking around with a mildly befuddled look, trying to remember what I’m forgetting to do. The soundtrack to my befuddlement is great, though. Man, that’s music.


Dale Short is a native of Walker County. His columns, photos, and radio features are available on his website, carrolldaleshort.com. His weekly radio program “Music from Home” airs each Sunday at 6 pm on Oldies 101.5 FM, streams live online at www.oldies1015fm.com, and is archived afterward on his website.