As anyone who might happen upon these digitized thought balloons will quickly discover, they have either nothing, or maybe everything, to do with grilled cheese sandwiches; and most likely never touch on anything relating to cooking or the kitchen... except perhaps, the very first posting. And so, with your indulgence, may I present, the ramblings of a reforming philosopher...

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Misty, Water-Colored Memories...

“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.”
- The Go-Between by Leslie Hartley
Once upon a time, way back in the psychedelic haze of the mid-seventies, I was passionately impressed to commence writing my personal history and, in connection with that process, to also begin keeping a journal. At the time, my motivation for doing either was a complete mystery, other than for the inexplicably compelling reason that I seemed instinctively certain the activities would one day be important.
The historical volume has been under intermittent construction since that incident, but has frequently fallen to the sidelines as a task self-critically, either too cumbersome, too wordy, too imaginative, too self-indulgent, or just too painful at times to continue. However, because of the epiphany, I’ve managed to remain fairly diligent to the demand. During sleepless nights I return to it with bleary eyes, but renewed enthusiasm, and hope that the final collective, despite how fanciful I think it sometimes appears, might at the very least, provide context for the choices both good and bad, made throughout the paragraphs.
The challenge of keeping journal entries seems to have been easier, fundamentally just requiring a commitment to keep plodding along, ten minutes or so at a sitting. Once the first year was wrapped up, it just made sense not to waste the practice and to keep adding to it. And, even though the first half decade contains a fair amount of mundane daily factoids, including weather and temperature statistics, time constraints of an active, growing family eventually taught the lesson of filtering. Very quickly the entries slacked off to less frequent, but hopefully more notable, weekly and sometimes monthly, commentary.
In a nostalgic review of both projects a while ago, I became aware of a rather peculiar phenomenon. At their moment of documentation, the anecdotes in my history, although distant in time… were quite distinct. However upon reading them again, after many years since that initial record, a lot of those same memories had become like faded images on old sepia photographs. Many were a little bit less recognizable. Early childhood recollections of certain people, activities, toys, and events, once crisp, colorful and poignantly clear, now read almost as if belonging to another writer. The journal entries on the other hand, were still freshly vibrant; maintaining essentially as much atmosphere and impact as they did when originally delivered to paper.
Initially, I surmised that the difference between the two was quite natural and simply a matter of the growing distance between my current age, and the fixed-dated timing of the actual events. Commentary detailed in my personal history was written well after the facts from a post-partum mode and admittedly, may have been potentially fogged at the outset. In contrast, my journal writing was penned “within the moment” and was, and hopefully continues to be, as accurate and honest as I dare care to present it.
The answer it seemed, was obvious. Presumably, as my mental faculties would most likely diminish (as indicated by statistical surveys of the elderly, but in my case hopefully only after many years yet to come) I was rationally confident that my recollection response to the journal writings would be similar.
And then… the faintest scent of honeysuckle drifted through my open window.
Like a magician’s illusion, logic and reasoned analysis vanished, to be mystically replaced by a flood of emotion and sensory impact. Somehow, the sheerest of a whispering fragrance managed to transport me from my book and recliner to another time and place from my past. So vivid, real, and emotionally branded was the effect, that it momentarily caught my breath and made me gasp in surprise!
The question, “Why do we even have memories?” has, throughout the ages, evoked countless theories and speculation both philosophic and scientific; each field generating even more complex and convoluted questions and concepts to support and bolster their separate views. Upon presentation of the query, a host of heated responses have been, and will ever be generated, often dramatically emphasizing their authority and righteousness, one over the other. However… most likely, only when both merge, into a future, singular, and absolute knowledge, will the correct answer be revealed.
It may seem like wishful thinking mixed with a liberal dose of personal conceit, but perhaps some time off in those halls of tomorrows, and unfortunately, only upon second or third reading, maybe my family or a curious passerby, or even myself, will gain additional insight into who any of us may have thought we were during this time.
Meanwhile, particularly since the advent of the computerized cloud of the Internet, let’s enjoy pondering this provocative quote from the artificial life theorist, Steve Grand. - J.
“[Think] of an experience from your childhood. Something you remember clearly, something you can see, feel, maybe even smell, as if you were really there. After all you really were there at the time, weren't you? How else could you remember it? But here is the bombshell: you weren't there. Not a single atom that is in your body today was there when that event took place. Every physical bit of you has been replaced many times over (which is why you eat, of course). You are not even the same shape as you were then. The point is that you are like a cloud: something that persists over long periods, while simultaneously being in flux. Matter flows from place to place and momentarily comes together to be you. Whatever you are, therefore, you are not the stuff of which you are made. If that does not make the hair stand up on the back of your neck, read it again until it does, because it is important.”

Article Copyright J. Michael Lyffe - 2015

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