Goodbye, and thanks for all the fish

“Things are getting a bit quiet here because I am happily occupied in the embodied world. There are many felicities, both in the realm of the obvious and in the territory of the secret.

“I have been thinking also about the fate of this blog, the good ship commonbeauty, and about how to give this enjoyable little experiment the graceful and natural death it deserves.

“Two strange thoughts have accompanied this. First, a couple of lines over at Lois’s page (heart@work), in which she talks about the inexpressibility of many of the experiences she’s been having (April 14). Somehow, that touched something very real in me. My blog, which has aided my acts of witness, has also been, in its own way, an impediment to witness. I am curious about the unprinted territory commanded by Socrates and by Gautama and by Yeshua and their many nameless ilk.

“The second is an article at Dave’s page (vianegativa) which, oddly enough, I have not yet read. It is the recent article on poetics (April 13), and I have this instinctive feeling that, when I finally do read it, the attention I will wish to pay its prescriptions will leave me precious little blogging time! So, blame Dave. . . . ”

commonbeauty 18 April 2004

“The strangeness happens when Joel (the Carey character) discovers that his unhappy, impulsive girl-friend, Clementine, has had her memories of him erased, so she can move on unencumbered by the past. Distraught, Joel decides to do the same thing. The complication arises when, as his memories of her are being deleted, he changes his mind. The movie surprised me with its somber ending (which, of course, I will not divulge).

“According to Hollywood, if you deliver solid entertainment and viewers enjoy themselves, they won’t care about trivial things like inconsistency, improbability or impossibility. With regard to Jim Carey’s latest movie, I found that to be true. The fact that memory erasure technology is totally inconsistent with current science or any conceivable future science didn’t dampen my enjoyment one bit. . . .

“Memories aren’t like individual data files stored on a computer hard drive. Memories are actually recreated on the fly, much as web pages are recreated new every time they are requested. So you can’t locate them anywhere in the brain for erasure. Also, different parts of the brain are involved in generating these memories. Furthermore, people program their own brains as they grow up, so every human brain is programmed a little differently. So memory generation doesn’t work exactly the same way in every brain. In short, no brain scientist on Earth could even imagine a technology that would permit the erasure of specific memories. It’s one of those things that probably will never happen . . . ”

Book of Life 21 April 2004

“Recently, a friend confessed that her memoirs had replaced her actual memories – her original impressions, images, interpretations, and emotions overwritten by the revisions stored on her laptop hard drive. Notebook scribbles, structured paragraphs, aestheticized dialogue. These are her reality now.

“‘I will be telling a story,’ she said. ‘And my husband will stop me. That is not what happened, he will say. That is what you wrote.’

“This is not to say her memoirs lie. Rather, it points to the ways in which essays are shaped – formally, aesthetically, emotionally, and otherwise. Creative nonfiction writers do not merely retrieve and record the artifacts of their lives, digging them out from the sediment and arranging them for display. They imbue them with meaning. In order to create that meaning, they reshape the emotional, psychological, or temporal contexts. Subtle as this process may be, it is also extremely powerful.

“But something even more fundamental – more powerful – is revealed by my friend’s story. When original memories are replaced by our crafted ones, what does this mean? Just like in archaeology, the site is destroyed by our own digging. Forever altered. . . . ”

evidentiary: alchemy 6 April 2004

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