Working feverishly on a paper on religious vs. historical memory. It's been interesting to be thinking so much about memory, and what it actually is. Paul Ricoeur's Memory, History, Forgetting is a wonderful guide through this terrain; so, in a very different way, is Y.H. Yerushalmi's Zakhor: Jewish History and Jewish Memory.
Two nights ago, sister #4, her husband and I watched a compilation he had put on video: almost 50 years of our family's home movies, including the beach here in Florida as early as 1957. Back then it was a forlorn tropical barrier island, lined with the skeletons of departed docks; now it's a cheesy resort chock-a-block with hastily built condos and 7-Elevens. In some of the videos, my parents are younger than I am now. They were both gorgeous. The men smoked and drank bottled beer caught fish by the boatful and smiled broadly through stubble and cigarette smoke; the women always wore lipstick and cat's-eye sunglasses and tied a kerchief on their head. They smoked, too. We kids, at first unused to having a lens trained on us, stared at the camera quizzically. Then we horsed and goofed for it; then we ignored it.
Before coming on this trip, I watched, with Gabe, another video taken here in Florida, at a family gathering in December 1994. The girls are getting their first look, in the video, at this whole raft of step-cousins they've inherited through me. Middle Daughter is on a different lap in each shot. Oldest Daughter is on a beach -- the subject of virtually all her childhood artwork. She is happy. Gabe was conceived on that trip.He and I marveled at the fact that in this video, he exists, though none of us knows it yet.
And in that way, memory reaches into the future, even as our forgetfulness erases the past. The beach, though vastly different, seems like a character in these videos -- an intelligence with its own memory,desires, obstacles, treasures. It's the mnemonic metronome, pr the archive that keeps yielding sacred manuscripts, hidden in the Qumran caves of our past, looming above and behind us, hidden in plain sight.