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Monday, April 3, 2006

Chapter One Hundred Nine, in which We remember

What follows was sent to your Bibliothecary by our dear Callisto. She doesn't see the beauty of it--she doesn't understand. Still she agreed to let us post it here, and we thank her.

I just finished browsing this primer on philosophy, and one of the topics was, "What is real?" Only now. Only this precise moment. Ten seconds ago when I typed "I just finished browsing this primer on philosophy" no longer exists. It is past. The only record of its existence, the only way I know it happened, is by the words I see on the screen in front of me.

Is this what history is? History strings together all the moments of the past so we see where we came from and can follow the progression to where we are now. Then what of Ariadne's string? Theseus goes into the labyrinth, and then follows the string back out--he moves backward, he retreats into the past. It doesn't turn out the way he or Ariadne had hoped. Is that the message of the myth?

I have a memory: I don't want to go to school, and my mother makes me. Out the door I go, but to school I will not go. I sit on the milkbox for the rest of the day. This happened, but it is no longer real. Or is it? What about all the things I have forgotten? Perhaps one fifth grade day I fell in love with a handsome young boy from down the block: my first love. But I no longer remember the experience, and the boy I do recall pining for in seventh grade instead is enshrined in my mind as my first love. Which is true?

If the past is just memories of things that have already happened, is the future just memories of things that have not yet happened? If the moment won't stay, but the memory does, are memories the real things? When we are struck by happiness, we become as Faust, imploring the moment to stay. Maybe moments are only the way memories of the future become memories of the past.

When someone says they feel lost, like they don't know where they are or belong in the world, is it becase they lack the memories others have? Are they somehow not able to see how they got where they are today? And why, instead of freeing them, does it enslave them? Is memory the essence of what we think of as our selves? Without memories, who would you be? Could you ever know yourself?

I don't understand.

Here, then, is a small part of Eloisa's plea to Abelard. We encourage our Readers, spend ten minutes' time, and read the entire poem by Alexander Pope.

Relentless walls! whose darksome round contains
Repentant sighs, and voluntary pains:
Ye rugged rocks! which holy knees have worn;
Ye grots and caverns shagg'd with horrid thorn!
Shrines! where their vigils pale-ey'd virgins keep,
And pitying saints, whose statues learn to weep!
Though cold like you, unmov'd, and silent grown,
I have not yet forgot myself to stone.
. . .
How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!

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