Pink Packard Hood

Pink Packard Hood - Courtesy of Used with permission.

Light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul laments Humbert Humbert. The recollection of Lolita draws Nabokov’s unreliable narrator far back in time as the middle-aged man, now grown old with memories, paints a portrait that pleads for pity and argues that his judges should look at this tangle of thorns.

Such are memories – convenient, self-serving, and self-justifying. Useful, but never objectively true. Nor can they ever hope to become true, having lost that virtue with a drive off the showroom floor and onto the pothole and tar-ridden streets of a human mind; there to break-down with age or neglect, to collect dings and scratches, to take damage from collisions with other memories, to change hands, become obsolete, be parked in a vacant field, grow a patina of lichen, rust and sun-rot, and to eventually be forgotten.

Pink Packard

Pink Packard - Courtesy of Used with permission.

Pink Packard Front Quarter

Pink Packard Front Quarter - Courtesy of Used with permission.

Pink Packard Quarter Window

Pink Packard Quarter Window - Courtesy of Used with permission.

Most memories live this arc of existence very briefly, dying of defects in the production line. I’d share one of these with you but I’ve forgotten them all. Perhaps memories of dreams are among the most common victims. There are other memories which appear fleetingly and then are gone again, only to re-appear at some common invocation. These may attach themselves to certain odors or events: the waft of a casserole or a snow-covered morning. The most subtle of these might even provoke experiences of déjà vu. Among the more durable and reliable are those memories which are driven for work and those which are driven for pleasure. Both are ever at the foreground of our attention and these highly practical memories may be those with which we most closely identify… these are the memories we imagine to be the most true reflection of self. This is to name just a few grand types and I’m sure you share my sense of the profound variety of memories, being the proud owner of your own collection.

Yet there is one class of memory of particular interest to me for its vital, yet, mysterious role. It is those memories which sit on the seat of the soul and drive us. Memories so deeply visceral and fully fitted to the form of consciousness that they don’t appear to us as memories at all. In fact, they are forgotten.

Do you remember the moment that your life began? I don’t mean to ask if you recall the events of your physical birth, though such a moment should be highly memorable. Rather, do you recall that moment when you became aware of being alive? There was certainly that day when you learned to correlate your sense of sound, of smell, of sight, of touch, of hunger, of fear. Which memories coalesce to form your current attitude toward human torture? Or your sense of direction? The certainty that you have of being a morning person or a night person? And somewhere you have memories of how to recognize love or its brutal opposite, indifference. How about any part of the long series of experiences which formed your attitude toward driving in heavy traffic? And your predilection for religious practice and belief? There are memories behind all of these. Forgotten memories.

Beyond all of these are ancient memories, the formation of which we’ve not personally experienced, yet are equally part of our being. Material, chemical, genetic memory, aeons in the making. We are beings so fully and utterly composed of data stored in memory that one might say we are nothing more than massive collections of pulsing, undulating, copulating memories. In the words of Russell Edson, via Douglas Hofstadter, we are teetering bulbs of dread and dream.

Yet the profound subtlety of all that we’ve forgotten may tempt us to write-off as farce, fallacy, or even sin, some very basic aspects of who we are and how we diverge across a broad spectrum of variation. When these forgotten memories collide with more modern or otherwise conflicting memories we may damage ourselves and others. This collection of memories called human life – the oldest and most majestic of its kind – can have such a profound yet hidden impact upon the mind of each individual as to turn even an otherwise gentle and wise elder into a predator of the natural sexual memory complexes of a child.

And so we’ve come full circle and landed again on Lolita. Lo-lee-ta; the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

If we remember nothing more profound may it be this one thing: that we are the sum of many forgotten memories. The Red House Painters croon: have you forgotten how to love yourself?

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  • IMAGES – All images herein courtesy of Rubber@Road and used with permission. Thanks, Jeff! And prints can be purchased at Jeff’s online store. I’d like to put this Pink Packard collection on my office wall.
  • RESOURCES – Special thanks to Vladimir Nabokov (and to my friends here on D&S who encouraged me to start reading), to Microsoft Bing and Wikipedia, Douglas Hofstadter’s “Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid”, and to many anonymous authors of books on theories of mind, both scientific and philosophical, which over the years have deeply enriched my formation of memories — though I do not blame them for any utter misunderstanding on my part, and finally to all of my colleagues here on Doves & Serpents: your phenomenal ability as writers and editors is an inspiration to me.
  • ABOUT - Cipher on a Wall is a weekly column and forum here on Doves & Serpents which explores the realm of mind, memories, and dreams. You can find an introductory post for Cipher on a Wall here and a full archive of posts here. My name is Matt, and I’ll be your host for the duration.
  • UPDATES – the approach we’ll be taking with Cipher on a Wall is to encourage lively and ongoing discussion throughout the week between each Saturday edition. To help with this I’ll be returning to each post and adding updates in the form of additional thoughts, observations, related news, elevation of comments, links, additional resources. etc. To easily show that an update has been added, I’ll revise the title to append a “>” for each update. For example, three updates on this post would look like this: “Forgotten >>>”