Friday, May 18, 2007

Eternal Sunshine of the Editing Mind

As I edit my articles, I wonder what else would benefit from the swift stroke of a merciless pen. Or a particularly vengeful "delete" key.

My memories, to be sure. There were plenty of ups and downs this year. The much alluded to law school "drama." I'm hoping that as a 5L SJD I'll skip it next year. I'd rather focus on the positive, and forget entirely the negative. I learn from my mistakes, to be sure--I just want to forget the particular details, leaving only the vague impression of a lesson learned. I destroy evidence. I burn bridges and scatter the ashes to the wind.

I edit my memories, keeping only the good ones and the hard-won lessons--but none of the bad details, and definitely no evidence of feelings that have changed or things that should have never been said in the first place. This is why I don't keep a diary. This is why I'd be perfectly willing to delete this entire blog one day, if it ever becomes too compromising. This is how I am able to delete tons of email correspondence, digital pictures--virtual memory--without hesitation.

This seems entirely contrary to what everyone has learned from Bartleby: those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Indeed, that is all anyone really remembers of Santayana. Clever twist: "The only sure thing that can be said about the past is that anyone who can remember Santayana’s maxim is condemned to repeat it. As a result, the danger of not understanding the lessons of history is matched by the danger of using simplistic historical analogies." Although, as Eric Muller notes, it's possible that even this twist is a repetition.

From Eloisa to Abelard :

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd;
Labour and rest, that equal periods keep;
"Obedient slumbers that can wake and weep;"
Desires compos'd, affections ever ev'n,
Tears that delight, and sighs that waft to Heav'n...

Far other dreams my erring soul employ,
Far other raptures, of unholy joy:
When at the close of each sad, sorrowing day,
Fancy restores what vengeance snatch'd away,
Then conscience sleeps, and leaving nature free,
All my loose soul unbounded springs to thee.
Oh curs'd, dear horrors of all-conscious night!
How glowing guilt exalts the keen delight!
Provoking Daemons all restraint remove,
And stir within me every source of love.

- Alexander Pope

Maybe it's not possible to forget. But it's easy enough to edit. I wonder how much of my memories (or my thesis) will survive the editing process--what I'll take with me in the end. Ah, but they say, you can't take it with you anyway.