The Fallenposters Blog

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Hundreds of Thousands

with 4 comments

How many people can you remember?

For instance, if you just thought about all the people you have met or encountered in your lifetime, what would that number be? Thousands? Tens of thousands? More?

I’ve become intrigued with this question after reading the novel The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier. The novel follows the life of a city of the dead. The novel infers that there is a world inbetween this life and the afterlife that is inhabited by the souls of those that still live in the memories of the living. Thus, the population is dependent upon the memories of the living. Which brings us to the question: how many people can you remember?

Try doing the math. Remember your immediate family, your extended family, your friends and acquaintances from childhood to adulthood, the people you see frequently on the street, at the store, and those that you’ve only seen once, but have left a lasting impression. I think this number of people can grow extremely large the longer you think about it.

I think it would be a good experiment. I wonder if there has been any research conducted on this topic.

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Written by Eric Spiegel

June 22, 2006 at 9:26 pm

Posted in grab bag

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4 Responses

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  1. I’ve really been wanting to read that book! Now you’ve intrigued me even more — it’s definitely moved up on the list! I’ve often wondered about this — and have tried to figure it out, because I feel like I know and have met more people than the average person, just because of different institutions, schools, work environments, volunteer stuf, etc., but I’m likely completely wrong. Isn’t one premise of this book that once you forget the dead, they disappear?


    June 22, 2006 at 10:42 pm

  2. Its not necessarily that if you forget the dead that they disappear, but more like if the last person that remembers you dies, then you disappear. Its based on the idea that a lot of African societies believe in three worlds: the living, the recently dead (Sasha), and the dead (Zamani). The recently dead move onto the next world only because no one is alive anymore that remembers them.


    June 23, 2006 at 6:58 am

  3. Ah, I see. A very interesting concept. I’ll definitely have to move this one up my reading list.


    June 25, 2006 at 3:33 pm

  4. […] I have always had an unbelievable memory. I remember the names and faces of countless people that I have met throughout the years. For this reason, when my husband posed the question of how many people can a person possibly remember, I was certain that I must have the capacity to store more names than the average person. My motivation for holding this belief comes from the tendency for me to always remember folks who do not seem capable of recalling my existence. […]

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