Sunday, 23 December 2007

The Year(s) in Review

Why memory? How is it that “memory” —which, after all, is a mode of intentionality among many —has assumed the centrality, possessiveness, and implicit seizure upon experience it has? It is a question seething with urgency during the “festive season,” in the midst of mince pies, Christmas trees strapped to cars, and the recollection of artificial menorah lights. Precisely because Christmas is the archetypal “warm” festival, a concurrent coldness is established bordering that apparent peace. Bachelard has written: “Behind dark curtains, snow seems to be whiter. Indeed, everything comes alive when contradictions accumulate” (p.39). Only now, the contradictions can be reversed: the stillness of the present becomes as sharp as the slowly lapping movement of childhood memories.

Why memory? It is a question that emerges in the thick of an already compressed landscape of remembering and forgetting, charged with what is brought to surface while simultaneously disabling other scenes from profiting from the intensified temporality. Yet it is a less a question about the content of what is being remembered and more a question of how the past persist into and through the present. Not the remembering what, but the remembering how.

I confess: I sometimes trial through the history of this blog, plotting the development and fixation of certain themes. If nothing less, the fixation toward the structure of memory – as opposed to the structure of imagination, which engenders itself toward the unbuilt future – becomes a means whereby the measuring of identity is articulated. Memory and self form themselves in terms of a difference, a difference to previous variations of identity. I begin to get a sense of movement precisely through being displaced and estranged from a prior experience.

Why memory? I had already asked this question a year ago. There, too, a concern with the remains of a presence. The side-effects of memory. Immovable narcissism. The same low-level melancholy underscores the repetition of the question, framed in a different guise but compelled by the same desire. Less a fixation on the past, and more an anchor by which the present is cast to sea, the question “why memory?” forces the unity of internal time to break asunder. Indeed, if Christmas is the time in which dysphoric moods are heightened, then it is also the time of stasis and repetition. “Winter,” to return to Bachelard, “is by far the oldest of the seasons. Not only does it confer age upon our memories, taking us back to a remote past but, on snowy days, the house too is old” (p. 41).

After a while, it becomes impossible to discern what belongs to the self and what simply lingers in the self, like the memory of a virus sedimented in the body. Repetition, possession, fixation: the virus becomes active in the dark, concealed during the daylight of time, but seized in its activity as it overlaps with its own history. The virus reveals itself thanks to its intimacy with the movement of different seasons, and thereafter discharges itself in the world through encountering objects proximate to those seasons. Merleau-Ponty's "flesh of the world" is at the same time held together as sub-microscopic unit of viral particles. The memory of a virus: the evidence of an organic pattern, structuring the affective modulations of memory, the result of which is the emergence of an immanent contradiction between the sameness of desire and the difference of time.