how are we rediscovering our past selves through memory objects—the clothes in our closets, the songs in our playlists, the images in our digital archives? how do we allow ourselves to forget in an age of constant remembering?
“Sometimes you’re 23 and standing in the kitchen of your house making breakfast and brewing coffee and listening to music that for some reason is really getting to your heart. You’re just standing there thinking about going to work and picking up your dry cleaning. And also more exciting things like books you’re reading and trips you plan on taking and relationships that are springing into existence. Or fading from your memory, which is far less exciting. And suddenly you just don’t feel at home in your skin or in your house and you just want home but “Mom’s” probably wouldn’t feel like home anymore either. There used to be the comfort of a number in your phone and ears that listened every day and arms that were never for anyone else. But just to calm you down when you started feeling trapped in a five-minute period where nostalgia is too much and thoughts of this person you are feel foreign. When you realize that you’ll never be this young again but this is the first time you’ve ever been this old. When you can’t remember how you got from sixteen to here and all the same feel like sixteen is just as much of a stranger to you now. The song is over. The coffee’s done. You’re going to breath in and out. You’re going to be fine in about five minutes.”
When we over-index on documenting our lives, or infuse it with the aesthetic of cinema, scoring the climaxes, editing out the in-betweens that make up a life, we risk inverting its utility. Instead of being an existential hedge against dying, it becomes one against living. We end up believing things about our former selves that weren’t quite true, or doing it for the gram, or missing a hike before it’s even over. In our search for meaning we obscure it.
“True mourning in rooms – not the cemetery to find only absence – – in presence of things”
— Stéphane Mallarmé (trans. Paul Auster), A Tomb for Anatole
Where does the self actually go? All the accumulation of memory—the mist rising from the river and the birth of children—and all the arcane formulas, the passwords, the poultice recipes, the Latin names of trees, the location of the safe deposit key, the complex skills to repair and build and grow and harvest—when someone dies, where does it all go?
Proust has his answer, and it’s the one I take most comfort in—it ultimately resides in the loving and in the making and in the living of every present day.
| Sally Mann, Hold Still: A Memoir with Photographs
It was about realizing a song is a representation of a larger time frame, with a much broader scope of information, that collapses into a small space.
As Oshima locks up the cabin, I turn to look one last time. Up till a minute ago it felt so real, but now it seems imaginary. Just a few steps is all it takes for everything associated with it to lose all sense of reality. And me—the person who was there until a moment ago—now I seem imaginary too.
—Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore