Remembrance of things past1 is the special province of the aged, for whom the long shadow of the past looms over the present and the ever-shortening future. Everything conspires to remind: face in the mirror, alien; daily routines, upended; places, bulldozed; useful things, obsolete; friends, family, and acquaintances who peopled our world, sick, dying, dead. Our attempts to freeze time—photographs, videos, recordings—fade, as do our memories. Despite our efforts to stop time, the loves and friendships, the hardships and tragedies, the triumphs and defeats, the jubilations and heartbreaks, the full pulsing, throbbing experiences of life—are gone.
We hold close our mementos and memories, trying to salvage fragments of a world being submerged by the in-rushing tide of time. We are denizens of Atlantis, that mythic lost world that sunk beneath the sea, leaving no trace. But not yet. This moment, right now, is our time. Hold it close.
1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows
Of a thousand years of joys and sorrows
Not a trace can be found
You who are living, live the best life you can
Don’t count on earth to preserve memory
- This is the translated title of a book by Marcel Proust, which has more recently been translated as In Search of Lost Time. It is considered a classic on the poignant ache of memory and lost time.
- Ai Qing considered to be one of the finest Chinese poets of the last century, who was persecuted for his work. The title of this poem is also the title of a recent book by the well-known Chinese artist and activist, Ai Weiwei, who is Ai Qing’s son. He also has been persecuted for his work.