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The Row Boat
"Had we but world enough, and time..." *
Keeping a Memory2/20/2007 10:20:03
There are these moments that make it so clear why art is not only possible but obligatory for human beings - experiences so palpable and visceral that they cannot afford not to be not only remembered but incarnated, formed, remade, and reexperienced. These moments stand out because one knows that later we will feel differently, naturally, inevitably. We may feel empty, in need of filling. Some times subsist on the present while others can only subsist, while remaining in the present somehow, on memory.
Then of course there is the Critique of Memory, of Living in the Past, which says, "No, live in the present." But I think experience can show us finally (combined with all religion and philosophy) that the present is made up of its pasts and memory is very much the valid property and inheritance of the present. Living in the present is a mediation of memory precisely. Depending entirely on memory is one thing. Keeping it up to date, present, assuring as it does that no person is an island, that is another.
The ritual and practice of Christianity is in large part the practice of memory, of remembering a specific person and series of events, without which sacred reality would not exist. We map the past onto the present - through the holy calendar, through the mass, through the day - and remake them both. Certainly holy history is bad professional history, constantly updating meanings and, as I said, remaking events. Such slippage is the curse of professional history (which strives for correctness), but professional history would not exist or be any fun without holy histories.
I say all this because of a wonderful week that just ended. My love was here and then left, and I won't see her again for a month. And so there is pastness and presentness at once: she is still my love, of course, but her presence is a memory, and it is time once again to learn how to make the memory enough.
re:Keeping a Memory - 2/21/2007 07:25:07