IN A CLEAR BLUE SKY YESTERDAY I watched a distant jet miles above where I stood leaving a long white con trail in the cold high air. The slightly fluffy white con trail seemed to remain at a certain length, and as the plane crossed the sky, its tail appeared to dissipate at its tip and disappear, never getting any longer. It had, I could see, reached the limit of its ability to remain visible. That con trail, it occurred to me, is the perfect metaphor for memory and its limited ability to remain discernable. In time, it fades away, it disappears into thin air. That part of our memory that we hang onto, through the tumult of everyday living, is the portion most meaningful to us. Its purpose is nothing less than to provide us with our identity. Memory’s cousins lend an assist in this endeavor, the steadying influence of probity coupled with the more purposeful pushing and shoving of that inner rascal, ego. Our memory is our con trail, but it can only be seen in private by us, alone with our thoughts. Nabokov held that retention of memory was a function of love. “The more you love a memory,” he said, “the stronger and stranger it becomes.” I think that he said “stranger” because he had read Proust and knew that what we remember isn’t necessarily what actually happened. It’s what our memory decides happened.
Another great contemplation:
It occurs to me that because I tend to write my thoughts down (in rhyme), the con-trail is not quite equating to memory, but more like a longer version of those printed streamers/messages that are towed behind planes for people to read from the ground.