I keep forgetting to accomplish certain tasks, because of the tyranny of the urgent. Given the course of my life, if I do not do something fairly rapidly, it tends to get buried under more recent tasks. For example, I have a book to finish reviewing about Latin American military history but haven’t had a lot of free nights or free time on weekends. I also need to do my taxes rather soon, which is somewhat important and at least mildly urgent, and on tax day I have a rewrite of an article due . It is good to have so much to accomplish, but it would be nice to have less that had to be done that was currently undone, as I tend not to like to have anything like that hanging over me. Organizing one’s workflow is a matter of making sure that nothing remains undone for too long, and that work cycles through in an organized fashion. At least, that is the design.
Apparently I’m not the only person who has a bad memory, and sometimes one that is even costlier. I was reading today about how Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke, and rapper T.I. had been fined $7.3 million for copyright infringement for the smash hit “Blurred Lines.” Now, there are quite a few cases where songs sound far too familiar . It is one thing to be inspired by a song, and that can happen for all of us. Inspiration is easy enough to find in good songs, but forgetting to pay the debt of gratitude and songwriting credit for it is a far more serious affair, and a very costly one for an artist like Thicke whose career appears on the downturn, and who must be relying on those song royalties to keep up any pretense to a high life and attempting to win back his estranged wife. It’s going to be harder to woo the lady when half of your song proceeds from your biggest hit are going to pay the estate of a singer whose song was copied.
Lots of people forget. Some people turn every moment of forgetfulness into fretting about growing old or having dementia. Others forget rather cunningly and intentionally so they are not burdened by rules and restrictions they do not wish to follow. Some people forget parts of a night, or lost weekends, or years of unpleasant childhood, and some unlucky people cannot forget even if they wish to very deeply. Memory is a funny thing; it can betray us by reminding us of something after it is too late to do anything about it, or by suppressing and bringing up what is likely to deeply frustrate or infuriate us. Nevertheless, as memory is all we have individually and collectively to record and bring up the past, so that we may make use of our time and our accumulation of experiences, we cannot do without it, even if it is fallible and temperamental, like so much else in life.
 See, for example: