Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The River Lethe at Noon

We have no choice but to think. And memory is not often voluntary. Thought may be trained, and memory governed - but neither human condition is chosen. We breach the womb destined to think and to remember, born equipped with the burdens of awareness.

Sense and thought, inextricably entangled, bound up in the demands of memory.

We participate, simply by existence. Born able to recall, born able to learn, we enter a world of pre-existing conditions.

But that world does budge - all the time. It budges every time a man or woman, a child or infant opens eyes to it. Reality itself moves:

Every time the cells of memory alight in their electro-chemical dance.
Every single time a child takes a step.
Or runs with fear.
And dies of hunger.
To the witness of other children.
And a broken, weeping mother.

Reality moves. This is the record of memory. We have culture, and books, and stories to remind us that the singular memories of singular women and men cannot contain all the events of the world. In the gaps between men, reality moves differently, inhuman. We come together, we tell ourselves one to the other - thought and memory altering the world, sometimes rapidly, right now - and sometimes across the ages; but always inexorable.

Reality moves, like a river, or an ocean tide.

Which is why we forget. And how we die.

A clue, perhaps to the dangers of the crystalline everlasting. Holy books and permanence, the one true way and the end of history, the final equilibrium and the perfect economy, the physician's desk reference and complete and total health.

The mind comes with memory. And truth is, in truth, aletheia - unforgetfulness, unconcealment. But it is temporary, partial, always bordering the limits of error. We cannot know everything. We die. We forget. We lose even our cellular memory, decomposing, or burnt to ash. The bonds are never permanent.

The truth - remembered and forgotten in waves of history, in the tides of a single life - is transformation, change, alteration.

We navigate those waves by way of memory, constantly thinking into events. We preserve our sanity with the knowledge that we know very little, next to nothing at all. We lose it, sometimes for all the time left to us, by a curiously easy refusal to forget.

Forget, from the the words meaning "letting go" the "grasp." Sometimes we lose our grip. Some times we forego.

The surival of our kind hinges on the difference.

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