The Racket #29 : THE PAST
Past the point.
We've been thinking a lot lately about what we forget. It started because we were looking at a list of movies, the type of chronological catalogue we often dedicated ourselves to grinding through out of some sick sense of obligatory completion. The type of list that is part tool for future viewings but mainly a record of past viewings, prideful proof of the concrete accomplishments of what you have done, seen or read. But as we were running our finger down the side of the page, eyes scrunched, it became quite clear that though we knew without even a hint of self-doubt, that all of these films had slid past our eyeballs, there were those cinematic expressions that brought nothing to the mind. This was not just struggling to recall the specifics - a mustachioed granite slab of a face, the soft pluck of Spanish guitar, a single foot dangling above a black and white beach - this was staring at names and images as if it was the first time I'd ever seen them.
We understand that the past won't always be ours to hold on to, to draw from, to exploit for our own literary purposes. That the time before will fade and fuzz and curl about itself until what was isn't anymore. We get it, we'll get older and the past will grow further and further away until the beginnings are so far back down the line they'll shimmer like an oasis on a sun-blasted highway, ours to shape and interpret at will. We know that the wrinkled ridges of our gray matter will flatten and smooth and with it whole landscapes of memories will vanish with them. Screw a couple entries on a list of films, we're talking people, cities, entire volumes of life experiences, poof, gone for good.
But that's for later, we hope, this is now, and here we are relatively young staring at a list pockmarked by blackholes of remembrance. It's a little fucking scary.
A sibling mentioned they'd recently been approached by a person at some social event or another who'd showered them with praise for an article they'd written years ago. But when they searched and found the article somewhere in the dark shadows of the internet, they couldn't remember a single thing about it. As they read the words collected beneath their own name there was no memory of the experience of creating this singular piece of work cobbled together from the quarries of their mind. No images of the subjects they'd interviewed or the geographical locations they'd been in when they did. Nothing of the conversations they might've had with an editor or a colleague about the piece. No thought of sitting in a chair in the near dark, the computer screen casting its harsh glow on their faces.
As if these piece of writing splayed out before them wasn't even theirs.
This isn't to say we, or our relation, are losing our minds or anything. This isn't an empty clearance rack so much as it's an ongoing garage sale helmed by a neighbor when we aren't home. Small things get peddled, but the majority of the household items are still rattling around.
And yeah, it's disconcerting to come to the realization that the taut line of the past you believed anchored you to the present, kept you on the straight and arrow as you trudged into the future is actually just a piece of moth-eaten string, it's kind of liberating. C'mon, the past is always right there, an unimaginably small step behind us and then another behind that and another behind that on and on and on forever until there are so many steps that the extent and reach of our lives are so far behind us everything is just a thumbprint smudge of a blur. If all of it, every eye twitch and curse word and familial fight and rank bag of garbage and half-formed thought and full-formed emotional meltdown and every else here and there and in-between, it'd get pretty heavy, really wear a person down.
Maybe we will trade an empty space in our minds where a movie we saw twenty years ago once lived so we don't have to remember every time a nurse stuck us with a flu shot. The past is long and weighty, and hell, when you really think about it, sometimes it's nice to have the load lightened.