Wednesday, 4 December 2013
Forgetting and being Forgotten
Forgetting can be embarrassing at a surface level of forgetting to bring the mince pies, to turn up for the interview, what someone's name is. It can become worrying when a person feels, as they age, that they're forgetting more and more; and it can be worrying for those around them.
Forgetting can be a process, 'forgetting' someone you hoped to marry, and not being able to. An impetuous person might make up strategies for themselves, like getting very drunk and dancing vigorously; or taking an engrossing interest in a hobby, or keeping fit, or resuming an lost interest.
Forgetting can be a sadder more insidious process in a novel or film where a character gradually forgets his childhood values, or an values at all, and has not realised what sort of monster he's become, a Stalin devoted to the cause who can see only good in what he's doing because he's right, right, right.
We can, as it were, forget who we are. Perhaps until something happens and we 'wake up' - a typical Chekhov storyline - and it's too late.
Being forgotten can be humiliating. Left off the party list, not checked up on before the picnic bus goes home. The dedicated working in the club, the party, and the family can be 'forgotten' because everyone is so accustomed to relying on on.
The dead can be forgotten, graves untended, names illegible, no longer cared about although they might have done things, built the canal, the railroad.
Trying not to forget. Simply things like a knot in the handkerchief, a mnemonic. But also the whole idea of literature itself. Beowulf wanted to do great deeds because they would be recorded by the bard and he would not be forgotten. Or we write poems like a kind of emotional snapshot, to 'keep'. Or we write a novel to put real or imagined memories into shape, make sense of them, and of course - in all writing - try to make them memorable, unforgettable
Forgetting, and trying to resist it, is a powerful theme on it's now. Where are they now (Ubi sunt), sings the Wanderer in the Anglo Saxon poem of that name:
Where is the horse gone? Where the rider? Where the giver of treasure?
Where are the seats at the feast? Where are the revels in the hall?
[...]How that time has passed away,grown dark under cover of night, as if it had never been.
]'Where are the snows of yesteryear' sings Villon.
'If I forget you, Jerusalem,
my my right hand forget its skill.
My my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy
Sing the Israelites in exile.
I will never forget you. Perhaps the poignancy of this sentence comes in part from its sense not only of the other person, but of the speaker's whole life. Never. Try this link