Memories are like threads in a box, a box of remnants and potentials, cast away from daily utility, a cache of what was or could have made a whole, supporting or blending obscurely into an entirety, a tangible fabric, visible, social, the object of comment or observation.
Instead, the threads sit in a box, pale and fading, too insignificant to use. In turn they are made up of a series of smaller threads, all intertwined and indistinguishable, all of a piece. Unravel one and another must be unraveled, and another. Unraveling one or another does not reveal the meaning, the essence, like peeling back layers to a core. It only dissembles it, and ends by tearing it apart. Soon we would have no thread anyway, only wisps or fluff. Who can reassemble that? How can meaning be found in memory?
For the solitary, memory looms large because the external world of people is a foreground to what dominates: the interior life, the intellect and mind. Memory crowds out the present and the yesterday, indifferent in its tumble of faces, voices, projects and agendas. Instead, music hurls the mind into a mood, a cascade of past threads, all indistinguishable and meaningless, except in the resulting sense of transport or emotion.
There are sound threads, too. Even when music does not elicit specific memories but only sensations of the past, music is the memory perceived and brought to the surface by another person evoking that person’s moment of transport and emotion; a projection of that sensation into auditory threads. To the degree that music recreates that sensibility in us it is successful or efficacious. We do not need to know anything about the composer or the artists — it is only a set of evocations that remain with us, haunting our minds with a trite refrain turned ghostly.
Those experts of mindfulness and of sage advice have always bid us take note of the present in order to be conscious of what is going to affect our memory and our sensibility. The cognitive senses are complex enough that we do not need to add more. Yet life consists of constant cognition, demands of receptivity and awareness. How are we to filter what will be beneficial in the future when we cannot control what is going on in the present?
The very question of control suggests how to address it. We do not control things, simply put, only filter them to the degree we are able. We do not try to manipulate, fight, or anticipate things, only reduce their import by reducing or withdrawing our attention to them, disengaging and redirecting our attention. Redirecting is the greater challenge because it consists of substituting nothing, or no thing. It is emptiness, the vagueness of externals, their fuzziness and incoherence, that is on our side in the struggle to filter and redirect what will soon become memories, like it or not.
We will still be left with memories, with that uncomfortable box of threads sitting before us. Perhaps, gradually, the threads will fade, unravel, turn to wisp. With that we will see not grand and menacing beasts but only “dream tigers.” One day, the box of threads will be empty. We will be content with that emptiness.