Thursday 5 September 2013

Pieces of memory

Vanessa said recently that she thought I was perhaps a little too attached to things. I let the word sink in for a time and gave some thought about it. She is right. I am attached to things, but only to certain things, things that guard the memory of a very special time in my life.
The comment came the day a treasured painting which had soothed my eyes and accompanied me for nearly to decades fell to the ground one early morning, when the plastic hook broke in two. Naturally, the sight of  the damaged painting caused a shock. It was a prized possession, a token of my late student years, when I was living in this modest flat in Montmartre...
Under the layers of confused emotions, I knew that it was just material thing, I wasn't as sad as I would have expected. Only when some friends started reciting corny, ready-made phrases like 'c'est la vie', 'a new chapter in life', or 'cheer up' that I truly became annoyed and angry at their insensitivity and lack of empathy.
Of course I would move on and not mourn for years. 

Memory is slowly starting to bear another meaning in our lives. In an age where everything is being digitalised, what will we leave behind us for generations to come? Not much. Most of people's life is now contained in a computer, an iPhone or an iPad: their photos, images and videos, music, messages, correspondence... their memory.
Everything is stored in a cloud or in a hard disk, at best. Dematerialised. Components of our lives are provided by big giants like Apple, Ikea or Sony whose motto could be "everything but sustainability". I remember this advertisement I saw on the Taiwanese TV, showing a older lady fondly flipping through her photo album when a younger woman, presumably her daughter (or daughter-in-law) comes in and looks at her with an air that seems to say that she obviously hasn't understood anything about life. But luckily, she brings the answer that will make her a modern woman, and tadaaaa, shows her an iPad! Oh, how easy it is to view all the pictures now! And on top of that, an iPad is so much lighter and easier to handle than that heavy photo album!!! Now the older lady understands the true meaning of life and both laugh and smile full-heartedly.
I was sick when I saw that. The advertisement would play again every fifteen minutes. 
I wonder how future generation will remember our time. That wonderful iPad will last until the next one is launched. iPhones as well as laptops are not meant to 'survive' half a decade. Computers and hard disk crash and we lose all the memories within in a second.
And what about our memory. What do we decide to remember? Can we really entrust all of them to that fragile little thing?
I re-read pages of a diary I kept when I was in my late teens. I had kept it in a folder which has followed me to Taipei. I have an old photograph of my father taken in Huê when he was three, an ashtray that was designed by and belonged to my grand-father. I kept a few of the EP's that my mother used to listen to when a student in London.
Attached to things, yes I am. They are pieces of my history. Being a wayfaring stranger, I like to have them around. They're like a map of my own life. 

No comments:

Post a Comment