On Remembering in the Twenty-First Century.

As I turned to washed my hands in the third floor bathroom of my 1920's Georgian mansion-turned-office building, I saw the most beautiful shadow I've ever noticed. Maybe an odd place to contemplate beauty and life, but nonetheless, I was fascinated as I watched the evening sun play with the leaves and the arch of the window. 

I had the sudden, second-nature instinct to video it or snap a photo, to find a way to keep it forever. The quick darting movement of the branches and the light as they swung back and forth against each other reminded me of those moving photos people keep making now, those series of two or three photos that make it look like a stop-action illustration.

In an instant, I saw it: the reaction to a reaction to a reaction. Art that imitates life that imitates art that imitates life.

Sometimes I love technology and everything that we can do with it to capture the world we live in. Without photos, some memories, both the important and the mundane, would be lost forever. Without video, we might forget things like what a loved one's voice sounds like, or the way your grandmother's dining room looked with everyone gathered around it as you blew out your candles out on your third birthday. Those moments would die with us. They would flicker and disappear like a beautiful but rather nondescript early September day.

As a writer I'm repeatedly struck with the urge to write things down, to transcribe every moment, every thought, every conversation. I don't want to lose it, this moment that feels so pivotal and poignant. I'm afraid that I'll forget, and that all these things that seem so necessary will slip through my fingers and that I will reach the end, not knowing who I am or how I got here.

But if I have to record it for it to last, was it ever that important?

And what will happen to our perception of lives lived? 

I fear that if I'm only blogging and tweeting and photographing and documenting the happy things, the funny things, that I'll look back on life with a false sense of reality, believing that things were less painful than they really were. Or that I will be wracked with an unidentifiable emptiness and disconnect to periods of my life that were filled with hardship, because only half of it is visible.

In our flurry to document and text and tweet and Facebook and Instagram it all, maybe instead of creating a new facet of permanence to our lives, we are instead losing our ability to remember and forget naturally, to live independent of the collective conscious, to appreciate a fleeting moment for the bittersweet thing that it is.

I took the photo anyway.


Abigail Smith said...

I love this question you ask: "But if I have to record it for it to last, was it ever that important?"

A guy I lived with a few years ago was very adamant about NEVER writing anything down. His philosophy was that his mind would filter through the information given and his mind would retain the relevant stuff. Everything he didn't retain wasn't important and wouldn't have been worth putting down on paper anyhow.

This was a completely foreign concept to me. I have been keeping a journal since the 6th grade and always loved the act of taking notes in a class. So his ease at passing up the opportunity to make a record of things in his life was always astounding to me.

But as I continue to grow and change -- I can see both sides of the coin. Thus, I feel like I'm becoming a bit better at deciding what is worth my time to record, and what shall remain a fleeting moment of joy or sorrow.... (still a work in progress though).

Anyways... great post! I love how you're really wrestling with some good questions for the modern day human in the midst of social media and gadgetry.

Jessica Kathryn Sullivan said...

I like the way you think, and I like that you took the picture even more!

Anonymous said...

I think it is important...every fleeting moment of our lives is important enough to document. This includes the pain and the sorrow as well as the happy. As humans we have a fascinating desire to declare a permanancy to this world, to mark our existence here. Our photos and our written words are proof that those moments and thoughts really did exist in our short lives here on earth. I don't think you'll reach the end not knowing who you are. On the contrary, everything you have captured and recorded makes you who you are. I can recall several times specifically where I have seen something that changed my way of thinking or has helped me make a significant change in my life - having that note written down and tacked to my wall has been very powerful to me.
The written word and the captured image in time are both tools in discovering and growing who we are. They can take us to far away places or to the bottom of our souls. We rely on good things everyday to continue to exist. We don't become emptier because we let the sad slip away.
It's actually a wonder we can even think for ourselves anymore with all technology that does everything for us. We should let our minds free to capture and interpret all that we can.
Sometimes I'll catch a glimpse of something and feel so thankful for that moment...those are special times...like your shadow.

onesilentwinter said...

beautiful post. I as of late have wondered the same, my need to capture everything, do i remember it then because i have proof of it or because i stored it in my hearts mind. for me it is instinctual to snap a picture, bring my camera, store it, a habit that i would need to break slowly.

never the less , it is a beautiful shadow, it is almost as if you got to see a secret and you caught it.

Bethany Suckrow said...

Such lovely and thoughtful comments you ladies have left for me. Thank you for sharing. I'm glad I'm not the alone one with these thoughts. :)

Post a Comment

Share your thoughts: