Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Kommentary on Memory 2


Memory persists through systemic thinking.

When I want to remember a huge corpus of details, I build a system of some sort. The best mnemonic systems are those you superimpose over time and space, and which give those infinite coordinate systems some finite organic coherence.

Over time: I recently facebooked the year-by-year sequence of photo Xmas cards from my family between 1957 and 1983, encompassing my entire childhood and young adult years (plus my older brother Tom’s first year). Obviously, I had seen all of those photos all my life. But something about arranging them in the right sequence, and persisting them to a publicly accessible page, with jotted commentary, proved liberating. It’s only been a month so far since I posted them, but now my memories of those years feel like they’re anchored in something concrete: what my bros and I actually looked like in those years. Also, the concrete details of where we were: in and around our home, on vacation in the Smokies, etc.

That’s important. It’s important to remember that my 43-year-old memories were formed by 8-year-old James Kobielus, not by 51-year-old James Kobielus. You have to apply an aging filter to every memory in order not to be trapped by who you were then. Or who you are now.

It’s sort of like looking at the night sky. The light hitting your retinas is the collapsed superimposition of the radiant energy from those celestial objects at various ages and stages in their respective pasts. You can’t ponder that infinity unfiltered by that awareness.

It’s like directly staring into the sun. Don’t do it. You’ll go blind.