“appetite, experience, memory”
Thomas Beller, in what I’m coming to recognize as his characteristically companionable and elegant way, has written a new post for newyorker.com called “Saying Goodbye to Now.” He confesses to a strange parental urge I recognize in myself — “as she was airborne, my hand twitched and slapped my pocket, in the dim hope that I could locate my camera, pull it out, and shoot while the moment still held” — and reflects on the way photojournalist Tim Page peered at contact sheets of his old photos to coax memories while writing a memoir. Then comes this:
We are now all Tim Page. Or, we have contact sheets. At least, those of us who snap streams of images as though they were jelly beans being scooped into a hand. But a jelly bean in a hand makes sense as long as you eat it. What would you say about a person who collected jelly beans? Whose home was filled with glass jar after glass jar of them? One could ask such a person, What are you planning on doing with all those jelly beans?
This, which comes later, intrigues me:
It’s an era of controlled deprivations and detoxification, of fasts and cleanses. Perhaps everyone should make a weekly ritual of twenty-four hours of undocumented life. Periods of time in which memory must do all the heavy lifting, or none of it, as it chooses, the consequences being what they may be. No phone, no eclipse glasses to mitigate the intensity of what lies before you. The only options are appetite, experience, memory, and later, if so inclined, writing it down.
And yes, I am the same guy who, on this very day, found himself seized by the urge to shoot a photo while showering. Not that kind of shower photo. Innocuous. But certainly nothing I could do in good conscience while devoting myself to a ritual of “twenty-four hours of undocumented life.”