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?
You pile up associations the way you pile up bricks. Memory itself is a form of architecture.
∆ Louise Bourgeois
Like seeing a photograph of yourself as a child, encountering handwriting that you know was once yours but that now seems only dimly familiar can inspire a confrontation with the mystery of time.
| Francine Prose
There’s a sort of slowing when you’re verbalizing a memory and you’re trying to bring it up to the surface. The voice slows and hesitates… and then when the memory coalesces… the voice accelerates. There’s this lovely rhythm that’s a reflection of the memory process as it’s going through the mind.… The process of memory as it comes through the voice.
In college I had a physics professor who wrote the date and time in red marker on a sheet of white paper and then lit the paper on fire and placed it on a metallic mesh basket on the lab table where it burned to ashes. He asked us whether or not the information on the paper was destroyed and not recoverable, and of course we were wrong, because physics tells us that information is never lost, not even in a black hole, and that what is seemingly destroyed is, in fact, retrievable. In that burning paper the markings of ink on the page are preserved in the way the flame flickers and the smoke curls. Wildly distorted to the point of chaos, the information is nonetheless not dead. Nothing, really, dies. Nothing dies. Nothing dies.
∆ Nicholas Rombes, The Absolution of Roberto Acestes Laing
The present is always overwhelming in its persistence, so we resort to recollecting the past which is recorded in lower resolution by memory, photography, writing, records, scars, impressions, shadows, names, or titles. The present is always hesitant to successful speculation because we can never perceive the back of our heads, behind the wall, beneath the stone, under the floor, after the turn, beyond the horizon, without definitions. With recollections all the uncertainties are dissolved, we only record and replay that which was noticed. In memory all happenings are dissolved into events, but in present they are steadfast situations poised to writhe, turn, bite and twist on their own accord, running wild without consideration for our methods.
The Italian philosopher Vico had this theory that time moves more in a spiral than it does in a line. He believes that’s why we repeat ourselves, including our tragedies, and that if we are more faithful to this movement, we can move away from the epicenter through distance and time, but we have to confront it every time. I’ve been thinking about trauma—how it’s repetitive, and how we recreate it, and how memory is fashioned by creation. Every time we remember, we create new neurons, which is why memory is so unreliable. I thought, “Well if the Greek root for ‘poet’ is ‘creator,’ then to remember is to create, and, therefore, to remember is to be a poet.” I thought it was so neat. Everyone’s a poet, as long as they remember.
∆ Ocean Vuong, What’s your mood when you write?