lunes, 26 de septiembre de 2011

Nostalgia ...


It is along this line that your life passes: all you perceive and all you imagine is firstly experience, but immediately escapes from the infinitesimal present and begins to recede into the past, the province ofmemory: not the opposite of forgetting but a form of forgetting. And eventually, all of your experiences will be forgotten completely, as you live or, more finally, once you have died.

There is an inflection point, so to speak, for memories as they travel further into the past. At this point, they begin to inspire nostalgia. Nostalgia is the admixture of sentiment and sorrow that we feel as we begin to see how a memory fades; it is provoked by the sudden awareness of the rate of decay of a memory, and is as bittersweet as the last encounter with someone dying.

  • The pleasure of nostalgia: we yetremember, we savor an experience again, we substantiate ourselves with memory.
  • The pain of nostalgia: we see that memory is fading, we are reminded that we are fading.
  • The sustained ambivalence whose irreducible tension makes nostalgia beautiful: it is their disappearance that makes memories beautiful, that imbues them with more beauty the more they fade, the more tenuous our connection to them becomes. We recover them as smearing photographs from water, as notes forgotten in pockets, and this is when they seem most full of meaning.
  • Is our own mortal disappearance similarly related to the meanings we ascribe to lives? Would the end of death be as problematic for meaning as total recall is for happiness? Is death an enabling limit for experiential creativity? Without its redaction, would all narratives collapse?

We tend to assume that what determines which memories provoke nostalgia has something to do with the content of the memories. For example: it would be typical to suspect that a childhood toy might, or a photograph of an old family home. But we are often surprised to find that something quite trivial, quite unrelated to what we valued emotionally (then or now) can catalyze severe nostalgia. Perhaps it is not the content of our memories at all that determines which provoke nostalgia, but instead where they exist on this line, how faded they’ve become (a process which happens completely asynchronously with respect to “real” time).

If so, you might express the situation thusly: a memory induces nostalgia when it is X% decayed. You might then note that for different people, or for people at different stages of their lives, this number X varies; it might reflect not a static number but a relative proportion of time elapsed in one’s life to time elapsed since the memory in question; given their personal habits of memory, people might fall into separate categories, categories about which the field of existential mathematicswould presumably have much to assert.

One occasionally feels nostalgia for experiences as they happen, before (or, technically, immediately as)they become memories. These experiences tend to be particularly intense ones, rich emotionally and perceptually, dense with sensation of many sorts: visually beautiful scenes, times of deep social delight, moments of love. Perhaps the phenomenon of instantaneous nostalgia reflects that those experiences are so vividly-felt, so broadly resonant, that the moment they pass into memory the rate of decay is too much to bear.

That is to say: ordinary life is reduced even as we experience it into schema which memory manages to preserve more or less to our satisfaction, but when we are fully alive we feel painfully the chasm between the present and its preservation in our faulty recollective apparatus.

Does this mean the more one is able to live in the present, aware and attentive to life as it occurs in the moment, the more dramatically memory seems to fail, the more pitiful its sketched outlines and summary slides seem to be? And how does revisiting memories affect their journey along this line? Don’t we develop memories of memories which then begin their own disappearance? And what of orphaned memories? Isn’t it the case that nothing is as mysterious as memory, as what it means for happiness, awareness, identity itself?

Posted via email from apm35's posterous

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