an essay from 2012:
memories are a strange thing.
they are living entities in our hearts and minds.
sometimes, because many people live blurring lives and have to practice modern techniques of self-protection in order to survive and put themselves first, people store memories in hazy, ambiguous forms that are either good or bad. it is easier to designate memories into these "stronger" categories because it allows the actuality of true memory to r.i.p.
but actually, it’s easier to just forget it all, good or bad.
this is the tendency with floating memories.
with floating memories, it is easiest to base your impressions of someone or something on the immediacy of the moment and with the slight buffer of the floating memory — good or bad.
one of the many drawbacks to this strategy of life is that if there are bad moments in the midst of the good, the floating memories retain the bi-polar qualities of stark "good and bad" like a classification system, consequentially training the rememberer to falsify reality by placing too much of an emphasis on the extreme bad or hazy good.
feelings begin to rule the realm of memory. feelings, by their very nature, are ambiguously personal unless reflective of a collected consciousness. the individual becomes dependent/submissive to their own emotional maturity. but most people are not emotionally mature at the age they begin this process of narcissistic memory storage.
they are not always aware that the selective storage of bi-polar memories is not the most efficient way to process good times or bad times.
true relationships are filled with good times and bad times. the bad times cannot be avoided. they can be ignored, delayed, forever postponed. they can become saturating and overwhelming.
the fact is that people die. they grow weak and sick. some go crazy.
but if we fail to see how these actions affect everyone involved, we also fail to understand how our own actions play such a big part in things.
i have failed. i have tried to stay true to a holistic sense of photographic memory.
when my closest friend (not best, just closest) was killed in a tragic car accident when i was 18, i made a decision to try to connect my memories to my new found passion — photographing things around me that would either change or die.
since that time back in 1986, i have taken a photo about every ten minutes of my waking life.
and i already had a pretty exceptional "relationally-based" memory (i can remember entire conversations almost word for word and i can also explode memories and remember floor plans and object placement and routes and paths and such — basically i can walk forward or backward in time from almost any photo i’ve taken) .
frequently, i can high-speed through slideshows that echo up a path i walked.
photographs for me are doorways into sights and sounds that the camera missed — the person next to the person being photographed; the sound of cars or shouting or wind or water; the feel of warmth in the sun or cold in the air.
we can even do this with other people’s photographs, but it’s different when looking at our own pictures or those taken by the ones we love.
if we forget the sand on the beach between our toes or the path we took to climb the hill and make the walk back in an afternoon, what then? what do we have when our memories, without the aid of photographs, have no life?
how do we remember to say thank you for all the good things and the good times that time’s incessant waves wash over?
we move on.
we diminish without return.
but what a lot of people don’t know about me is that people tell me their darkest secrets. worse, after telling me, they often forget.
people call me up when they’re committing suicide. people call me up when they are in 12 step programs and they reach the part where they have to call everyone that they’ve hurt and apologize. it got to a point around the year 2000 where i could head them off at the pass and inform them in advance that they didn’t need my forgiveness, they needed their own forgiveness.
one woman called me at midnight on a work night in the middle of the week. i couldn’t help noting the complete selfishness involved in that kind of behavior and told her that if she really wanted to apologize for all the unkind things she’d done, maybe a daytime phone call would be better suited for that purpose.
people have also told me that they have diseases and disorders. people have told me they’ve been horribly molested and raped. others have confessed to the same crimes against their siblings and friends.
my grandmother on my father’s side would tell me how she longed to throw herself out the second floor window of her convalescent home and land on her head so that she was no longer a "problem".
my other grandmother, as she lay dying, shriveled up to a disgusting corpse-like figure, whispered hoarsely that "it wasn’t worth it." just months before i had shared with her a video copy of a play i had written, directed and produced at my college. it was about a confused young man who wanted to have sex with a woman. the only problem was that they lived in a world where heterosexuality was wrong.
i watched as my forlorn grandfather crammed a metal spoon into her mouth, the sound of it clanking harshly against her fake teeth. it sickened me to watch someone feeding death. it disgusted me to see my elder being treated with such a severe and merciless acknowledgement of her loss, her inevitable and impending death.
later, my other grandmother died all alone in some hospice while our family was "vacationing" on a christmas cruise in the gulf of mexico right after the miserable hurricane took out two of the ports of call.
it took her 17 days to die without food, water or medication. she died right before christmas, i think. i was having a difficult time processing things at the time. too many collisions were occurring around me.
i was spending too many nights on board watching the midnight trash dump that the luxury liners make every night in the open seas — 45 minutes of thousands and thousands of plastic bags filled with our day’s extravagant waste pouring into the water.
when i was young i read the book of ecclesiastes. it has always been the only book in the bible that pleased me. the rest of that collected work of essays has struck me as childish — the ideas of weak-minded people oppressing those who are even more weak-minded.
but that book struck me as relevant. and it said clearly that the person who learned too much would be oppressed by the knowledge.
and memory building is a bit like knowledge, after all. it is the root of ALL knowledge passed down.
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