Recollection

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[both images are mine]

I've been struggling with my ideas lately -- feeling as if all of the reading and writing I'm doing isn't coalescing -- but last night things started to change. I finished Clea, which meant that I had finished Durrell's Alexandria Quartet, and I knew I wanted to write something substantive about it. I pulled the sixth volume of Proust off the shelf for today, meaning to read through the pages on artistic creation.

That was a careless thought -- the thought of someone who has already forgotten one of the most important things she's ever read. I had forgotten the passages on Time Regained -- those beautiful, clear, resonant passages. And as I started reading through them, everything began to spin together -- there was an almost-tangible sense of resolution -- and the sense that at last, at last, I too had regained something.

There is such a misguided, myopic notion that to try and find truth through literature and art is to try and grasp at phantoms -- misleading illusions. And maybe this is true for some people. But for me, these passages are worth scores of scientific studies. Proust's passages on the experience of memory and recollection -- they hold more truth for me than any empirical evidence ever will -- for they hold true for Funes the Memorious just as much as they hold true for me. What I mean is that what Proust says of memory speaks to the complexities, the intricacies, the unknowns -- the difficulties that lurk behind any attempt to find evidence for some function.

I'm saying this poorly. I'm saying it poorly because of the lingering paralysis -- the paralysis that comes upon me when I try to speak of something of which I know nothing. I know so little about science as it is done today -- I know so little of philosophy as it is done today. I keep learning just how many ideas have changed -- how many explanations have been discarded -- discarded for the same reasons that we no longer rely on Galen's description of the circulatory system -- they are discarded because they've been proven wrong! I'm still trying to even figure out what it is that's changed. And until this becomes more clear, I don't want to be foolish or hasty in condemnation.

I will say this -- as I rode home today -- reading Proust and interleaving each page with notes, with smiles and thoughts and memories -- I felt anew a sense of enthusiasm -- and realized how much I had missed it.

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When I stepped off the bus I saw the most brilliant sky I have ever seen -- it was a true oyster-grey -- not the grey of the shell but the grey of the oyster-flesh. The clouds were lit by a liquid white light -- pale gold lining one lip of the great mass of clouds. They were piled high. And as I walked home, with the wind and the leaves and the chill, I felt so much like myself -- and was able to smile wryly at that thought.