Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Formative memories

Memory is a strange thing.  Sometimes when I talk to my sisters, they remember things from our childhood that I have no recollection of.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  Did we live such different lives growing up in the same household?  Or do we just tell different stories?

Some stories seem odder than others.   I think of one, for instance, which is simply the memory of a television show I caught a glimpse of once in Manchester, when I was a student there.  It was some semi-animated (clay-mation?) show with puppet-like characters in a spaceship.  The scene I remember is the ship plummeting to Earth (or perhaps some other planet).

“Oh, they’re going to crash,” some fellow student said as we watched in the common room.

And the puppets were running around frantically, shouting to reverse thrusters or whatever the technical term was.  And suddenly they seemed able to get the engines going to start reversing their descent.

“Oh, they’re going to make it after all,” said my fellow student.

But they didn’t.  It was too late.  The ship began to reverse course, or its descent slowed, but gravity was too strong for it; the inevitable fall had the ship in its grip, and after a brief moment of hope, there was a crash, explosion, death.

This scene stays in my mind, not constantly of course, but whenever I think something is off course in my life and needs to be corrected.  Quick, quick, I tell myself, like the puppets in that show; reverse course; fire the thrusters.  Why I should remember this scene of destruction at such a point is beyond me.  Perhaps it’s a negative example, a cautionary tale, warning me to do something before it’s too late.  But there it is.


Or you can run into your Ex and be reminded of unpleasant things.  One could call those deformative memories, I suppose, but I won’t go there.

Instead what suddenly comes to mind is a memorable quote – not memorable enough for me to remember it accurately, but it’s something along the lines of, “To live is to battle with demons.  To write is to sit in judgment on oneself.”  From Jung or Ibsen or maybe Robertson Davies (I think Davies maybe quoted them).  Do writers sit in judgment of themselves or of others?  Or both?  It’s the first part of the quotation that strikes home, though.  Sometimes life seems like a struggle with demons.

But that’s not a very positive place to end, so I’ll conjure up another quotation, from Raymond Chandler of all people, or really his hero Philip Marlowe, saying,

“The only salvation for the writer is to write.”

Which may be why I write this blog, from time to time.

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