Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The half-life of words

 

RIP

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say it just
Begins to live
That day.
– Emily Dickinson



This is a problem all of us who write have to face: How long do I expect my words to last? Some of our words will, of course, go out of fashion—who, today, knows what a wittol or a stauroscope is or was?—but that’s not really what I’m thinking of. When I submit poems to magazine—when I can get my act together to send out poems is what I mean—I find I tend to work backwards starting with my most recent poems and the stuff I wrote even as recently as ten years ago I often don’t to get round to considering. Okay I have made progress as a poet and I’d like to think the poems I’m writing nowadays are an improvement on those I was writing ten or twenty years ago but while some of the poems I wrote even thirty years ago were quite decent, I act as if they’ve gone off; that no one would want to read that stuff anymore. It’s the same when it comes to book reviews. I’ve stopped asking people to consider reviewing my first two books and, to be honest, a lot of sites say they’re only interested in recently-published stuff; how recent is recent varies but it’s not years. The fact is when Living with the Truth was first published it was already about fifteen years old and my most recent book was written six years ago but if we think about that one, which is set in the Thirties, would it matter when it was published? A novel about the 2012 Olympics on the other hand obviously only has a limited shelf life.

Words don’t go off and yet we act as if they do. I’ve seen it with myself in a bookshop where I’ll buy an author’s most recent book rather than an older—and often cheaper—book. Why would I do that? Yeah, sure, one would hope that as an author he or she has upped their game, but I don’t actually think my reason is anywhere near as rational as that. I just want something new. New is good. New is best.

I know at school I couldn’t see the sense in them force-feeding us the Romantic poets—what on earth could they possibly have to say that would be relevant to a schoolboy in 20th century Scotland?—and I felt the same about music. It’s perhaps a bit too strong to say that I hated covering the history of music at school but the quicker we could get by the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical and Romantic composers and onto modern composers the better and it’s really only in recent years that I’ve developed a true appreciation for anything written prior to Stravinsky. So shallow of me!

Robert BurnsAs far as literature goes I have read precious little of anything written before the 20th century apart from Kafka who was ahead of his time anyway. The only poetry I covered was what they made us read at Primary School, stuff like Robert Burns, although I’ll be honest I can’t actually find it in my heart to hate ‘Scots Wha Hae’. I can still remember a boy in our class called Neil declaiming it in front of our Primary 6 class and he had just the right angry tone to make it come to life; I’ve never heard it read better.

All ages have a very high percentage of art that doesn’t last. Even the great poets of our past find themselves remembered for a single poem or a few lines in a book of quotes. Everyone knows “I wandered lonely as a cloud” but what comes next? And can you name me any other poem by Wordsworth? And if, like me, you can manage the whole first verse (give yourself a pat on the back) what about the rest of the poem? And, no, I can’t think of any other poem by him, not a one, even though Wikipedia lists eight volumes by him. And we’re not talking chapbooks.

Now, here’s a question for regular readers: How many of you can remember a single poem by me? It’s not a trick question and I’m certainly not asking any of you to tell me but I bet most of you won’t be able to think of one, certainly not a whole one (hell, I’m lucky if I can remember a whole poem and I wrote the damn things) but I bet you’ll struggle even to remember a few lines. And that’s fine because I can’t remember any of your poems either. So there! Why is that? I have the perfect excuse, the world’s worst memory, but I don’t think that’s the only thing. I suspect none of us read, especially poetry, like it was meant to be read. We don’t live with a poem. When was the last time you meditated on a poem? That’s not what we want in the 21st century unless we’re geeks and have watched all three Lord of the Rings films (the extra special fandabydosy editions) eleventy-nine times and know the entire scripts off by heart. Most of the rest of us watched the vanilla prints that came out in the cinemas just so we could say that we had and if we never see them again well that’s just fine. (You can, of course, replace Lord of the Rings with Star Wars or Star Trek or Harry Potter or Twilight or any other franchise as you see fit.)

There is too much to read, to watch and to listen to these days. I have so much music on my shelves that I would be able to listen to something different every minute of every day for over two months solid. And I’m still hankering after new music. New: that’s the keyword here. New = good. Old = bad.

Now think about something (this is addressed to all of you poets out there): When you write a poem how long do you expect it to last? I have a friend called Vito who used to post poems, leave them up for a couple of days and then take them down. He didn’t even keep copies and it was only because Google Reader remembered all the deleted blogs I was able to salvage some when he decided he wanted to bring out a book.

I could never do that. That’s like binning photos. You just don’t do stuff like that. When my parents died my siblings and I made sure that every photo they owned found a home with one of us; not a single one was discarded and I would hate it—absolutely hate it—if, when I shuffle off this mortal coil, my daughter chucked out my big red binder full of poems. She won’t (she’d better not) but the thought of my words being lost forever is something I find really upsetting. And it’s not even happened. I know they say the Internet never forgets but that’s not true. It’s just not been going long enough for any of us to know how long it might hang onto stuff.

Does that mean that everything I’ve written is worth remembering? Absolutely not. Even in recent years I’ve written a few meh poems and the further back you go the less there is that’s really worth keeping; the less there is that I would keep, but it won’t be me that decides their ultimate fate.

The bottom line is that few of you reading this post will write anything that will be remembered by anyone for any length of time. And it’s not that what you’ve written isn’t worth remembering it’s simply the fact that none of us has the time to remember it and that is tragic. That is criminal. I’m thinking now about some of the poets I know and have followed for years online, people like the aforementioned Vito Pasquale, Marion McCready, Dick Jones and the prolific Dave King and I can hardly remember a thing they’ve written. And a part of me is ashamed to own up to that fact. I do have a lousy memory. I’ve mentioned this already but I don’t think any of you quite appreciate just how bad my memory is and that’s all I have to judge others by.

If we’re not going to be remembered then why are we writing? Clearly because being remembered isn’t the only or even the prime function of writing. It certainly isn’t for me. I write to work things out and once the thing has been worked out the poem has served its purpose; it could be tossed. I keep it as a record. It’s like when you sit a maths exam at school and they tell you to show your workings, well, these poems are my workings. That other people can get something out of them is lovely but that was never why they were produced apart from a handful that were specifically written for individuals.

Live for the moment. That’s what some people do, not dwelling on the past or gazing off into the distant future. They live one day at a time and it pleases me when someone reads one of my poems and it helps then through the day. It might not have been why the poem was written in the first place but it’s a welcome bonus because poems are a bi-product of my life and which of us wants to think that our lives are meaningless?

books-pileHow long does a book last? Online figures differ. For a paperback it can be as short a life as three to six weeks. Apparently a mere six to eight weeks. That's right. After a couple of months tops the book is whipped off the shelf. It has to be. More than 120,000 books are published each year in the United States alone. With the amount of books being released all the time (329 a day), bookstores simply can't afford to keep the same books up week after week, unless they're really good sellers. That’s a horrible thought. Especially if, like me, you take three or four years to finish a book and then in a matter of a few weeks any interest you might have managed to drum up has gone; you’re old news. And that’s novels. One can only imagine how the poor poetry chapbook fares.

What started all this rolling was a quote I read months and months ago. The only reason I have it is because I saved it and my computer remembered it for me. It was by Ron Silliman:

. . . it was clear that giving it your all, writing exactly what you thought needed to be written, regardless of whether it looked comfortably familiar or not, was the only way to go. Anything less really was just too boring, too timid. Why even bother?

I read it in an article here under the title ‘Why Do You Write?’ In one of the comments, Justin Evans says, “Is it then our duty to wait a certain amount of time before assigning artistic merit to the work, until our personal feelings can be sorted and dealt with?” And that just shifted me up a gear. I’m taking the quotes in isolation and you would do well to read the whole discussion to see the context but it does make me wonder: Why bother?

Why bother? Because I don’t know how not to bother.

blue tit milk bottleWhy did I bother writing this? Because it bothers me that we are living at a time when probably more great writing will be forgotten than at any other time in history. More crap will be forgotten too but then it’s always been forgotten and good riddance. But we like to think that the cream rises to the top. That used to be the case and early morning tits would peck holes in the silver foil to get at it. Now who even gets their milk delivered?

22 comments:

Brad Frederiksen said...

On remembering things one has written - http://maekitso.wordpress.com/2012/12/24/reputation-killer/

and on remembering a single poem you have written -

http://maekitso.wordpress.com/2011/05/27/take-me-to-your-library/

Art Durkee said...

As you know, I have a really good memory. Bits and pieces of some of your poems stick with me, although I remember better what I felt when reading one of your poems. I can't say I've memorized a lot of poems. I have some of George Mackay Brown in my memory, but not much Wordsworth. Some Keats and Eliot, nothing of Larkin.

Some of my own poems, but that's also a professional thing; if you're a musician who sings his own songs, you'd better be able to memorize the song lyrics. Of course memorizing music is easy for me, as I've been doing it since age 6 or so. Practice improves the skill.

But as for writing, I'm with Silliman on this (although I often disagree with his ideas on other issues): "giving it your all, writing exactly what you thought needed to be written, regardless of whether it looked comfortably familiar or not, was the only way to go." To me, for writing, that's the only point. Nothing else is strictly necessary. Good to be read, and known, and appreciated, of course—but not strictly necessary.

Brad Frederiksen said...

Sorry, Jim. My last comment was more like a series of flash cards - triggered memories within triggers.

When I was on the road early this year, I met a traveling knife sharpener salesman in a camp kitchen. He asked me what I was doing. When I told him, he explained how he used to be a performance poet, but he became disillusioned by what he perceived to be an increasing shift away from story telling.

I asked him if he would perform one of his poems. He didn't want to, but he did proceed to perform Banjo Paterson's 'Man from Snowy River' completely from memory. He said that's the only poem he would perform at poetry events in the months before he gave it up entirely, because it was the only story of length that the audience would sit still and listen to.

(to be continued)

Brad Frederiksen said...

"The man from Snowy River is a household word today,
And the stockmen tell the story of his ride."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fs_-DKUimeo&hl=en-GB&gl=AU

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Very engaging as ever...actually about the word T.S. Elio echoes in me and it's not encouraging but beautiful:
"Ther word in a word unable to speak a word.."

By the way, now I realize you are Scottish...I'll be in Edimburgh for five days at the end of this year...Best wishes, Davide

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Sorry I misquoted:
"The word within a word unable to speak a word..."

from Gerontion. Despite its grimness one of my favourite poems.

Jim Murdoch said...

How did I miss that wee poem of yours, Brad? Most remiss of me not to comment at the time. It really hammers home my point though. This poem’s months old but as far as I’m concerned it’s fresh and new. It’d be preposterous to suggest that it was in any way not as good as when you first wrote it. And, of course, the reason I missed it the first time round was—I have no doubts here at all—due to the sheer number of blogs I subscribe to; I doubt I read any of them properly so why the hell am I bothering? Glad to see I’m managed to serve as a prompt. The guitar playing was good too but I did keep wondering when you were going to break into song.

Your story about the ex-performance poet’s interesting and a little sad. I didn’t think knife sharpeners even existed any more. When I was a kid and the tinkers (gypsies) came round that was one of the services they usually offered. We lived in the last estate on the edge of town and so we always got them. The only other time I’ve run into one was in the town centre, an old woman selling ‘lucky’ white heather. The man’s right though, storytelling—orality—is dying out. I wonder how many mammies sit around telling their weans stories these days? Oh, they will for a wee bit but pretty soon the demands of the modern world take over and it’s so easy to sit in front of the TV, isn’t it?

Thanks for the link to the poem. It reminded me of the epic poems we studied at school, ‘The Ballad of Sir Patrick Spens’, 'Tam o’Shanter' and, later on, 'The Rime of the Ancient Mariner'. Poems like that are ancient history. Such a loss. I should do a blog on epic poetry.

Jim Murdoch said...

I think, Art, that actually pleases me more that you recall feelings rather than thoughts. I know there are those who think my poetry panders more to intellect than emotion but that’s certainly not the way they leave my pen; there’s room for both and the thoughts are there to stimulate the feelings. What’s better: a man saying to you, “That was a great poem,” or a man wiping a tear from his eyes after reading it? I’ll tell you, it’s the latter, hands down.

When I wrote music I rarely transcribed it. It was all in my head which is a shame because it’s all lost now. The songs I could probably recreate but not the instrumental pieces most of which never even had names. I was the same with my art, none of my paintings ever got named or even numbered.

I’m sure we must have memorised poetry at school—I remember one of the boys in Primary 6 standing up in front of the class—he had an exceptionally aggressive Scottish accent—and reciting ‘Scots Wha Hae’ and the reason I remember it was quiet simply because I’ve never heard it done better. I’ve not talked to him in over twenty years but we got off the train together once and walked down the road together. By this time he was an angry young man and I’ll tell you this I would not like to have run into him in a dark alley after he’d had a few.

Like you there’s a huge gulf between my poetics and Silliman’s but if those are his guiding principles then I have no issue with him just as I have no issue with you. There are readers for all kinds of poetry and thank God that’s the case or none of us might get read at all, eh?

Jim Murdoch said...

I’d not read ‘Gerontion’ before, Davide. I struggle with Eliot’s poetry. I like bits of it—the beginning and ending of ‘The Hollow Men’ especially—but somewhere along the line it loses me. I know it’s clever poetry and I think that puts me off but I can nevertheless appreciate its musicality.

I’ve not visited Edinburgh for fifteen years now. I took Carrie through when she first arrived here and was not impressed; in the few years since I’d been there last it had lost much of its charm and become far too touristy for my tastes. The visit did prompt a short story though so it was memorable in that respect. Not sure what to recommend you see because whatever I suggest will probably be a Costa Coffee now or a Subway. Rose Street (which runs parallel to Princes Street) used to have some interesting shops and the old town—Market Street, Cockburn Street, the Grassmarket—used to be worth a visit. The Royal Mile and that is just an exercise in marketing although you will find the Scottish Poetry Library tucked away there. If you’re looking for secondhand books try Edinburgh Books. There was another one I really loved but I can’t find it on Yelp so I suspect it’s closed down. It was on Lothian Road and I’ve just ‘driven’ up and down it using Google Earth but it’s gone; it was on the corner of a block and the door was set at a 45º angle so it was quite distinctive. I used to go on training courses there so spent hours and hours tromping around the city looking for new and interesting places. I also went on honeymoon there but that was basically just a mad shopping trip in the end.

Marion McCready said...

I remember some of your father poems and when I think about your poems I think about your general style, your voice (your poem voice not your physical voice) your ability to state things directly and always with a twist of some sort.

I refuse to try to keep up with the great flood of writing out there, it's impossible. I'm a slow poetry reader, I mull over a poetry collection for months. When people write their top ten poetry collections of 2012 I'm still obsessing over a poetry collection I read last year.

I also agree with the Silliman quote and I think it's the act of doing that matters, it makes all the difference to us as individuals to write but whether it will mean anything after we're gone... well we won't be around to care.

Jim Murdoch said...

When I think about your poems, Marion, I always come back to the sea or the Clyde. The one that jumps out at me is ‘The Captayannis’ although there was another set in Greenock that comes to mind. So bodies of water, couples (although the man is often off-poem and the women tend to be a bit forlorn) and, unsurprisingly, religious imagery and birth metaphors. Like you I remember a feeling that I get when I read your poems rather than lines although the odd phrase or two surfaces and then it’s gone. I don’t have many father poems—I can think of five off the top of my head (five where I’m talking about my own dad) but I suppose there are more where either I’m the dad or it’s just a generic father figure.

I’m getting better at reading—the last two books I’ve written reviews for only took me a day each to read (two books of short stories at 17500 words each)—but I doubt I’ll remember much about either of them in a few weeks and that bothers me because they were both good books and deserve to be remembered. I have all the time in the world and yet I don’t feel it. I rush around doing my best and never doing enough and wondering how the hell most of the people I know online cope. I feel I should be doing so much more but I’m not thirty anymore and even when I was I felt more like forty (which makes me more like sixty-three now or even older).

It matters to me that what I write matters. That, I find, can be a burden because I dismiss so much stuff as not worth the effort, things I would’ve been glad to write twenty years ago. Whether anything I’ve written will matter to anyone after I’ve gone, as you say, we won’t be around to care. The nice things about the e-books is that they will be around for a long time, maybe even forever although with a million plus new titles coming out every year the changes of anyone finding one of my wee books gets smaller and smaller.

vito pasquale said...

Perhaps reading is like hitchhiking - you want to get somewhere and don't necessarily have the means to get there yourself. In your "Living with The Truth," I thought the scene where the old friends meet in the coffee shop / gallery was brilliant. I've read the book three times now just to get to that spot and experience it again (and again). I've hitched a ride on your writing to such an interesting place.

I also think I might remember in its entirety your poem 'Cut the Blue Wire,' from 'This is Not About What You Think' but I might not even have the title 100% right. It would be cheating for me to reach up on the shelf above my desk to check. . . so I will resist the urge.

My point is that these are works that matter and likely will for a long time.

Although -

I'm not sure that humanity can be trusted, what with us losing the word 'Wittol' from our vocabulary. Nifty little word that. How did we let it slip away?

I know why I write - it's because writing lets me hijack my own car. When I start a poem I rarely know how it is going to end or which route it will take as it tries to find its way to a satisfying conclusion. I'm more than glad that you have some of the lost work - it's poetic.

Jim Murdoch said...

I can certainly get that simile, Vito, which is why I often read books I could never write. I just marvel how some people think to string a sentence together. Your small paragraph below concerning the appropriate criterion for measuring humanity’s trustworthiness being the perfect example. I could never have written that sentence although I doubt you would’ve thought to write my last sentence. We say things differently and that makes reading each other such a pleasurable experience.

It always surprises me which parts of my books speak to people. I know two people who think the acting scene in Jonathan’s flat is the best one. I know a girl who’s cried at the end both times she’s read it. I’m not sure I have a favourite bit. Every time I read any of it I want to rewrite it. It was another man who wrote that book, a man who thought being the age I am was old. I could’ve aged Jonathan when I got the book ready—made him sixty-three rather than fifty-three—but I make the point that he’s prematurely old so I left him be.

The artificial storyline that runs through Thirteen Threadless Needles helps me remember your poems; it’s a way of ordering them in my head. The voice and the slightly-off-kilter way of looking at the world is what sticks though.

And finally wittols… Before we went to bed Carrie and I had a nice wee talk about them. We could each think of one: she thought of Iris Murdoch’s husband John Bayley; I thought of Carry On actress Hattie Jacques and her husband John Le Mesurier although I’m not sure I’ve heard either of the men referred to even as a cuckold. Of all the obscure words to think of you come up with that one.

Elisabeth said...

I've been snowed under doing my tax, Jim and thought to pay you a visit.

I feel almost rusty within the blogosphere these days and am fearful that I will be sent away.

I write to make sense of things and to be heard, Jim but I'm not sure about my words being remembered. I remember several lines from several poems from childhood recitations, most notably On his Blindness, by Milton, and I'm glad I took the trouble to rote learn these words as a child.

But these days - I agree with you - it's hard to remember even the most powerful words for long. My head is too choc a block.

Jim Murdoch said...

I have missed you, Lis, but I do understand. I’ve also not been nearly as… I suppose the word I’m avoiding saying here is… friendly of late. The question is then: What is friendship? The word ‘friend’ is bandied about all over the place online but, being the old-fashioned kind of guy that I am, I still value the word and it means something to call someone a friend and to be a friend to that person. I find it very easy online to start questioning friendships because being online is like being in a sensory deprivation tank or maybe solitary confinement would be a better analogy where we cling to any signs of life on the other side of the door. Everything we get comes through the slot in our computers. And so we extrapolate. If all a prisoner sees is a hand then he imagines who that hand belongs to and in no time he’s built a whole body and the life that body inhabits and it’s no different with us. We get snippets. I know you have a family and a job but those are just words. I really have no idea what you life is like. But I’m glad you decided to pass a comment here; I’m easily pleased.

One has to wonder though about the lives we live and what the point is. When I was in my early teens with money in my pocket for the first time I crammed my life with everything I could fit into it. I read books constantly just so that I could say I’d read them which is where I picked up the habit of going for short books; it doesn’t matter if a book is a hundred pages long or a thousand it still gets its own line and counts as one book. But even the slim books I read I was in a rush to get through so I could go and buy another. Now I pick up those paperbacks, most of which I still own, and I can barely remember a thing about them. I wasted my time. I’m not even sure I enjoyed the experience of reading that much. I just wanted to have read a lot of books having read hardly any during my childhood. (At least it feels like I read hardly any.)

Rote teaching’s fallen out of favour a bit these days. I can see why but I think it’s a shame too. Maybe there’s more in my head than I imagine. Maybe if I got stuck in a real cell I would start to recall stuff. I feel these days like I’m trying to remember a theme tune to some TV show from my childhood—say Sexton Blake or Ace of Wands—but the radio’s on and the bird’s shouting at his reflection and Carrie’s asking me what we need to order from Tesco. And it’s like that all the time. I wrote 11 poems this year (and all of them in a seven week window). Since I quit work I’ve written hardly anything and it’s starting to bother me. I should have space to think but I don’t. Taking six weeks off to work on my short stories has been wonderful but now I’m in a blind panic to stock up on blog posts. I’ll run out of stuff to publish eventually—probably in about 2018 I reckon—and maybe then I’ll pack all this in and have the time to work on something fresh.

Elisabeth said...

I consider you a good friend, Jim, albeit an online one. It's possible if we were to meet in the 'real' world we'd find each other disappointing but in the world of words and ideas as they streak through the blogosphere we have a lovely bond. Your loyalty to my efforts to engage within the blogosphere and your constant and generous comments have left me with an expectation that you at least of all the people who pass by will respond to my posts.

I'm afraid I'm not so diligent here at your place but it's not for want of enthusiasm. As you write here, there's so much going on within the blog world - so many words - that we need to make choices about how often we will engage, if at all.

I must finish my book. It's my one resolution, not a New Year one, but a resolution nevertheless, to get my book finished in 2013. To do that I need to keep my visits brief.

There are times when I wish I had more time and other times when I relish the tension between my competing interests. I fear if I had time only to write I might freeze up. It's better therefore for me to walk the tightrope between too much and too little.

Sabio Lantz said...

Indeed, not only is more and more being written that will be forgotten, but inventions, performances and much more.

As the population grows, education rises and communcation eases, more and more will be forgotten.

It was all forgotten before, but now it is more obvious.

Do you know the story of the writer of the Dao de Ching? He was begged by the city's guard to write his wisdom before he left. In 1 day he jotted down those 81 aphorisms. On handing it to the guard and wandering off to a life of isolation, the guard said, "Thank you, Master, you will be remembered forever."

Lao Tsu then replied, "I hope not."

Jim Murdoch said...

Very well put, Sabio. But I think it’s more than that. Now we don’t get the time to remember properly. Milton supposedly was the last man to have read everything that had been written. If he was alive today it would take him all him time just to count the books as they were being published (which is currently at a rate of about one per second). I have CDs that I have listened to hundreds of times and films I’ve watched six or seven times but nowadays I can’t even keep up with the TV shows that I’d like to watch. I’ve no sooner watched or read or listened to something than there’s something else to watch or read or listen to. It’s no wonder I’m writing hardly anything because I’m not digesting anything properly. None of us are. I just had my dinner. It will take my body thirty or forty hours to process that meal. I could read half a dozen books in that time (and do) and will have forgotten 95% of what I’ve read in a couple of weeks.

I had a religious upbringing which probably did me as much harm as it did me good but here’s one of the good bits. When the kings ascended to the throne in Israel one of the things they had to do was make a personal copy of the Law Covenant—they didn’t have one of their scribes do it, they had to—and having written this out by hand they were told to read it “in an undertone” daily. Some modern translations render that as “meditate” and that’s the gist of it but the reading aloud has benefits: it slows down your intake by half plus you’re adding other senses into the mix reinforcing the experience. Who reads like that nowadays even if they’re studying a text for an exam?

Ken Armstrong said...

The poem that stay with me most (as you know) is the 'granite man' one.

Yes, even granite men
melt in the rain in time.

(I looked it up to get it right)

The exact words may not stay in my head but the impact does.

It's probably frustrating for you to have written so many words and yet it is these that stay with me most. :)

Happy New Year.

Jim Murdoch said...

No, Ken, far from it. Like me you’ve probably got two or three books of quotations lying around that you no longer need to consult because the Internet’s so much quicker and yet you can’t bear to toss them because, in years gone by, you spent so much time flicking through their pages. My first was The Public Speaker’s Treasure Chest and it’s a good fifty years old but I still find quotes coming to mind that I know I read there. In that book, and in books like it I’ve come across over the years, there are always quotes from old Greek philosophers and they’re usually no more than a dozen or so words long. Just imagine having lived into whatever ripe old age was back then and having devoted your life to the pursuit of truth and two thousand years on some kid sitting in his parents’ front room in Scotland remembers anything you said. I could live with that and if those two lines were it I wouldn’t complain.

Kikka said...

Very interesting what you wrote: made me think a lot! And with my poor english maybe understood a lot wrong also.. but:
For example, last summer me and my two sisters had to empty our parents house. Dad died 17 years ago and Mom has been living in a home care system for a long time. Where to put all the Books, Official papers, Writings, Diary s, Photos, Poems, Letters...
We saved most of them. Now we all are having huge boxes full of papers and photos waiting organizing... Books are in our and our children's bookshelves. But where does this end, after we are gone and our children have the same broblem with our "staff"?

Jim Murdoch said...

Thanks for your comment, Kikka. I look at things around my own house and there are so many things which hold— how can I put this? —a sentimental charge; I pick them up and something passes between us, well from the thing to me. What I’ve found is that charge dwindles over time and it’s only when we can pick up the thing and feel nothing that we can part with it. There are very few things left from my childhood. I know I dragged loads of them from house to house but every time we moved less and less made the cut. In that respect I’m a little sorry I’ve moved so much; relocations are always excuses for having a clear out. I don’t think I’ve chucked anything out since we moved into this current flat apart from a set of tea, coffee and sugar containers and my wife whinged at me for tossing them because she hadn’t done with them. I do wonder how future generations will view things since so much exists electronically now. At least when you walk into my office you can see everything. Hard disks are just wee black boxes and it’s hard to feel anything when I pick them up despite the fact they contain hundreds of files—books, tunes, images, articles—that I once looked at and felt needed saving. Despite the fact I spend so much time in front of a computer I’m afraid I’m still very, very attached to the real world.

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