Memory Sustains Life

I have always had a good memory.  I enjoy using it, testing it, and strengthening it.  This may be as rarefied a pastime as dominoes.  The mind has so many other places it must be.  The present is so demanding and the future poses so much threat.  Memory may be excess baggage, but I hold on to it as best I can.

People are obsessed with knowing what is happening now and in trying to predict what will happen in the next moment.   We are "dated" when we reference the past.  Worse, we are identified as living in the past, which is deemed pathological and pathetic. Looking forward is heroic and brave...looking backwards is a good way to get whiplash.

History was once promoted as a prescription for improvement. Many of us believed what we were told, that we could learn our lessons from the past and avoid repeating it.  This wisdom has been trumped by the theory of eternal repetition.  We know that we must repeat the past in variation because beneath our sophistication, we are animals that must repeat ourselves in order to live--and die. 

Meanwhile, we move toward the future, not walking briskly, or steadily, or in a straight line.  Rather we dance in great circles, spinning in a direction not always apparent, beguiled by the music in our minds.

Luckily, there are many good things to is one. 

It may not reflect any other experience we ever have, but this is not a bad thing.  If each of us can experience an exception to the realities of living, then why would we ever deprive ourselves of this for several years on the cusp of turning adult?

I recently showed my wife and teenage daughter the Amherst College campus on our way back home from a vacation.  It was my first time at Amherst in thirty something years.  I could not believe how many new buildings there were and how new the older buildings appeared.  I always remembered Pratt as having a dark facade and North and South dormitories as weathered.  All three looked scrubbed and new.  

We drove around the campus, probably on sidewalks as well as roads.  We must have been the only ones at Amherst that day.  It had rained profusely all the way from Palmer. Steam rose from the pavements and the grass and drifted among the trees. The light was neutral, pure, and honest, and the colors expressed themselves in depth.

Converse is now a library?  So much for memory! I used to receive mail there.

I have written an essay.  It is one experience I remember most about Amherst.  I wrote many essays there.  I am grateful for that.  It is nice to improvise thoughts, to find their relationship, and to give them  structure.  I do it whenever I can.  Memory sustains life, but so does practice.

If anyone reads this and wishes to read more about what I have been doing please visit: There are samples of my writing, art, and music there.  If you want to see my advertising work, please visit  For my blog, please visit ericoffthecuff/ And I just published a book of essays, titled MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME. It is available at  The link is



Tags:  amherst today 


Eric Sonnenschein, January, 2011