Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hidden Things

Nostalgia lurks within many things.  The irresistible pull of the past, like some giant electromagnet, it always brings us back to those memories, through smells or tastes or actions, things that we did before so many years ago.  The taste of a Hardees' Hot Ham & Cheese on a winters day after church.  Now that was a memory, and all the more poignant when the empty shells of Hardees restaurants now filled with Pawn shops or Chinese establishments.  We savor the foods of our childhood not because of exquisite tastes, but rather because of the memories of long ago.  It's what makes Braum's, a fast food chain (oh, but so much more than that!) in Oklahoma and Texas, such an amazing place to eat.  It had the best of everything. 

Such was a similar feeling when I sat down at my computer and pulled up a game from PopCap, Escape from Whisper Valley.  It is a Hidden Object game, where a thin story line brings together scenes in which is hidden different things (a hat, a cat, a vase, a comb...etc...) for you to find.  The game could call for finding 3 birds, one of which is flying in the sky, the other drawn into a painting, and one an origami folded swan.  Or it might call a future butterfly, in which you would find a caterpillar.  Some games of this ilk are better than others, and this particular game is one of the best I've played.  It also takes me back to looking through the pages of Highlights magazine and finding the Hidden Pictures page.  Although it's a magazine for children, the Hidden Pictures activity is extremely difficult.  I remember, as a child, looking through the pages, bit by bit, trying to find the hidden toothbrush, the bird...etc... Sometimes I would have my grandmother with me and we'd look together for them. 

Of course, now finding the hidden things, the needle in haystacks, is what I do.  I find the hidden book by Anne Tyler misplaced with Tolstoy.  The top corner of a magazine amongst all the others.  The unwrapped Playboy hidden behind the Kids bibles.  It's what I do.  And the Dopamine levels that a found object projects is what makes it a great job to do.  A researcher who finds a long lost article that proves his thesis is as to be ecstatic over his find as me catching a sought for book out of the corner of my eye.  In fact, it's the same brain chemical response.  It is the natural Prozac that is created just by finding something.  It's what makes the Hidden Object games such as Escape from Whisper River so addicting, because so many people cannot find the things they seek for in life.  Whether it be their keys or their lost birth certificate or true happiness.  It's the hope that, in finding something, we will discover something truly hidden from us. 

I looked over what I just wrote, and realized that I started with one theme and switched to another.  But, as I looked at it, the theme is the same.  Sensory recall, the bringing up to the surface a memory and a feeling from the depths of the subconscious mind, from the great rooms of filing cabinets that store all memories somewhere in the brain.  That, in fact, results in the same Dopamine release as finding that long lost toy under the bed.  And there's nothing like the smell and taste of a Hardees Hot Ham and Cheese to do that.  The warm comfortable foods that we eat, or the smells that remind us of our grandmother's kitchens.  We find something in each sensory touch.  It's an amazing feeling.  It brings us to a place where we were once happy and secure, loved maybe, and we can feel the remnants of it for a short time, before looking for the next needle. 

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