3 Difficulties of Memory

Perhaps the most difficult thing about the persistence of memory is the incoherence with which it persists. The relationship between the past and the future as each is transcendentally unified into the present – this is the incoherence of which I speak. For at moments I will feel myself a child of my past, its offspring, and at others I will feel more an acolyte of the future, as yet to be initiated into it. At other times I feel an orphan of the former and an apostate of the latter – an atom adrift in an atemporal vacuum. It is as if reflecting on both past and future I feel nothing. Such is the incoherence of the thing – I can at some times feel intimately bound to my history and futurity, at others feel as though both were synthetically unified to me, violently, rather than analytically deduced from me, peaceably.

The second most difficult thing about this is the kind of intimacy I bear. At moments the past will kindle itself before my eyes and I will see it in flashes, as though it were right before me. It is never as though I were living it again. No, my memories are never that intense. Rather, it is as if light were superimposed like cellophane over my eyes, and I saw and felt as if I was in that place of remembrance again. One light goes on and another goes off – my attention is fixed to the first light as soon as its beams strike me, and I can’t help but want to attend to it. It is with dreamy delight that I reflect on my past, for it wins me the deepest joy to remember my mother, grandfather, aunt, and sister. It is with the deepest admiration that I love them. And yet, at least in this mood of reflection, I feel them synthetic to me, over and against me. They are distant, strange, other.

The third most difficult thing about memory is the alchemy whereby it represents itself. One memory at one time represents an entire world of possibilities, a set of feelings about human relations. Namely, relations among those humans with which I had close contact. Another memory represents another world, another memory is another world still, and so on. All such memories conflict with each other a priori since the number of relations present in each is incommensurable. That my contact with others tinctures the hue of the whole world – this is a thought with which I have only now begun to grapple. That the whole of my life is somehow iterated severally, day in and day out, over the individuals with whom I associate. This much is alchemical inasmuch as it is agonistic or self-opposing. As I oppose myself to another, I feel them in their otherness from me. Feeling them, my whole situation to the world changes as they see me unique to them. I am wrought by their perception, as Vulcan wrought Achilles’ Shield over the fires of mount Olympus. On that shield portended the future of mankind; in the mind of the other portends my associations with him – the world we will share.

Who cannot feel the constant flickering of eyes? Who does not dream of solitude where the perpetual motion machines shrink to their shelled ghosts? Who does not dream of rest in a restless world? O, what dreams may come!


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