New Criticals

Memories are emotional. They force you to revisit parts of the past that may have been previously forgotten or (purposely) ignored. They make you accountable to yourself. A child is happy precisely because he does not carry around the weight of such memories. Children are able to avoid involuntary memory because they have a vastly different relationship to remembering. Everything they do, they do for the first time. There is no connection between one occurrence and the next. As people age and gain experiences,  they lose the ability to disconnect from the past. The possibility of living without memories becomes increasing more difficult, if not impossible.

Now, not even death ends memory. Gmail has a setting where, upon your death (or your disappearance from the Internet), your password and documents will be sent to your chosen recipient. Even when you die, your memories (as opposed to the memory of you) lives on. Hannah Arendt described history’s task as “saving human deeds from the futility that comes from oblivion.” [2] These past deeds were memorialized in epic poems, songs, and oral traditions—you could only preserve a purposeful story. Involuntary memory removes this narrative structure. My search results are just computer-generated—they have no soul, no context. And when I’m gone,  you'll remember me by my subject lines. 

[1] Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past, Volume 1, Swann’s Way: Within a Budding Grove, trans. C.K. Scott Moncrieff and Terence Kilmartin (New York: Vintage 1913-27), pp. 48-51.

[2] Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought, (New York: Penguin Books 1977), p. 41.

Thumbnail image by Jordan Yearsley.