12 June 2011


A.  The wisdom of the age (see, for example, Disneyland) tells us that happy memories are worth treasuring.  If I had to construct an argument in favor of this view, it would run as follows.  The past is secure and unchangeable, and so if one can guarantee that one is happy at a specific time, this happiness will (in the form of memory) be preservable in the future.  To have lived a good life is to finish one’s time with a sufficiently large stock of happy memories.  This is, of course, false.  While it may be true of the really happy man that he will die with a full store of good memories, it is certainly not true that a life made up of happy moments will necessarily be happy as a whole.  The past is no strongbox.  ”Peace in our time” produced the Holocaust.
B.  More interesting than all this is the idea that one should have experiences with the intention of creating memories.  There is a particular bench on a particular hill overlooking the Freiburg Altstadt that will always have a certain significance to me, but I never photographed it.  In all probability, I will never return to Freiburg am Breisgau in my lifetime, and will never see that bench again, nor walk down Wilhelmstraße in Tübingen, past the playing fields at night.  The problem with engineered memories is the problem with every attempt at engineering some natural part of human experience: in attempting to replicate the formal aspects, the motivating principle of the thing is easily lost.  We should be deeply suspicious of memory-factories like Disneyland.  The product they claim to be selling is far too close to our souls to come from a set of costumed figures and plasticine facades.