UserpicThe Chautauqua Lecture 12

A Raggedy Absence in the Real

The content of memory is transient. There is nothing brightly embossed on it that decisively indicates ownership. And when placed side by side, the contents of memories are dubiously coherent. If my memories make me who I am, I can only conclude they do not do so in virtue of their content. If I am to be found in my memories at all, it will be in their form. But what is the form of memory?

Here, we are at the limits of language: for the function of language is to express content. And so I can only fall back on metaphor. Form is what shapes content. If I am to be found in the form of my memories, then I am the traces left on the contents of memories. I am the scratches, indentations, and tooth marks left in these contents. The contents of my memories – they could be the contents of anyone’s memories. What makes them mine are the marks I have left on them, the marks that shape them. Every mark, every trace: that is me saying, “I am here too!”

Content is what is the case. The world is a totality of content, a totality of facts not things. Shape is always, ultimately, a gap, a lacuna in content. If I am to be found in the form of my memories, then what I am, fundamentally, is a raggedy absence in the real.


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