Jan 30, 2013

Erosion of the Memory

When I was much younger, I wrote a little essay once about wave breakers.  It went something like this:  we need protection to keep our morals from eroding away, like a beach needs breakers.
From Rivendell.

I remember where I got the inspiration to write that.

Another memory:  I'm standing at a fence, feeling some sort of adolescent sorrow.  The fence is at the edge of a sand and clay cliff that would look at the wave breaker spot if it wasn't for the trees that separate the two.  Who knows what I was feeling, and it doesn't even matter.  It had something to do with a girl (and at that time, she would've been a girl- not a woman) who had gone home early from camp that year and it must have been powerful for me to remember it at all.

And so I went and gazed wistfully (or the best I could muster at that age) out at Lake Erie.  All was forlorn.  I would never love again!

As that evening grew darker, I went back inside, to the ping pong tables and small snack shop of the Rec Hall of the camp I was attending.

All that is, however, only setting.  Because with the passing of time, that building has been torn down, as the sandy cliff beneath it was worn away by the lake it bordered.  And so, we can probably assume that the cliffside fence- or at least the piece of ground on which I stood back then- is also left only in memory.

It's an odd feeling.  Here's another example.

All my childhood I remember an old drive-in movie screen.  It sat next to a road we often took to New Castle.  A hill sloped down from the screen, and I remember it being covered with scraggly weeds... for years.

I visited my old hometown probably ten years ago now.  That hillside is gone.  Not only is there something built there, they have literally re-shaped the entire landscape.  The screen and weeds have been replaced by a Super WalMart and some chain restaraunt, and the weedy hillside by a gigantic Sears store.  We all know about this.  It has happened in numerous places all over (although I do wonder about the animals that lived on that weedy hillside, but that's for another time).

My point is this:  the displacement that this leaves us feeling.    I clearly remember that cliff, that movie screen.  And yet, not only are they changed, but they are in fact gone.

This hits on what it means when you are told at your grandmother's funeral that 'she will always be with you if you keep her in your heart'.  We've all heard it but to what extent is that actually true?  If you can remember them nearly perfectly, does that mean they are able to be recreated?  What if I was a painter and could represent these places visually rather than with words?  Would that make them any more real?  Or if I could find old photographs with these things in the background?

Forgive me my rampant philosophizing, but what I'm trying to ask is this:  Are our ideas what truly make up reality?  To use a computer metaphor, is reality hardware, or a sort of software that simply runs on the physical world around us?  Is something only truly gone if it is forgotten?  And in that sense, is this some sort of conversion of matter?  Like water into steam?  Something visible into something harder to see?

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