Saturday, June 12, 2010

June 12

That’s the thing of it there. My brother just wrote about how we err in historicizing, either by reanimating some epochal trait in some sort of grotesque charade that can only draw caricatures where portraits would hang, or by letting temporal gaps close up like scars over old cuts so we regard the mark & forget its cause. Either way, seems to me, there is a kind of valuation that goes forth, advertently or no. That act of separation, of differentiating either by the guffawing condescension of the present or, well, by its graver counterpart performing the same exact function. In any case, the past is set apart, fetishized, exposed ostensibly as a wake of obsolescence falling out behind us like the coma of a comet. The present gets privileged, in all the wrong ways. & the difficulty here is not that the past is passed; invariably, in the mere act of being, our recollections will perforce enact those reanimations & set those ghosts to dancing. Maybe the problem is that in thinking those ghosts external to ourselves, we forget that their vicissitudes are our own, that their reorientation resets our compasses, rewrites our pasts, restores our foundations. Like the old time travel caution against sparking some chain reaction that will wreak havoc on the eventual present (see: Marty’s hand disappearing). But when we re-collect, we do just that, & our inventory comes up altered in every instance. Maybe our accounting changes—certainly, no act of remembrance carries with it all the rhapsody of its initial phenomenon—but we aren’t so squarely ruptured from ourselves that we can’t find some breath in it. A wistful one, maybe, or winsome, or elegiac in some necessary way, but somehow it seems to me that elegy keens so when it finds its echo ongoing. I do not think for a moment, for instance, that my grandfather is still alive, but I can smell his flannel shirt & hear his gruff voice making its curt demands, & maybe in that small way his memory is alive in me. Which has nothing to do with his consciousness, mind you, & I don’t for a moment think that we remain discretely individuated (if ever we were) beyond our passing. Just that while I am alive, in my consciousness, there is an animate version of the man, of an other, & a sense memory that can conjure past present without hesitation, however diminished, however faded.

Maybe all to say that none of our alterities, temporal or spatial, seem to fall from us completely, but settle instead in the hollow concavities of our thinking & our bodies & our deeds, no matter how self-consciously modern or novel we would think ourselves.