It’s Sunday morning. I’ve cleaned my apartment and it is stunning. The dishes are washed, the tea-set is laid out, the cat is content on the couch. The wood floors shine in the morning light. The warm sunlight comes every once in a while, flickering between the clouds in the sky. Birds of all kinds can be heard outside, and Marceline lounges on the sofa beside me, soaking up any sun she can get. I decide to unload my iPhone of its photos; I take so many, and noticed that there were about 800+ on it the other day. Time to start over and do some digital spring cleaning.
Apparently I take about 175 photos each month. I couldn’t help but notice how truly I am a packrat in nature. I’m greedy for objects and photos to remember things by. I want to capture every day and keep it with me. 175 photos a month is around 6 photos per day. Most of them are centered around my cat, my dear young man, and nature. Still, I’m wondering why I feel the need to keep all of these photos for years and years. What will I need them for when I’m 50 years old? That’s 27 years a day. If I take 6 photos a day for the next 27 years, that’s around 59,100 photos total. And I’ll still only be 50.
So why take all these pictures, and keep them? Why not select the few most precious ones and cherish those? So all of this was going through my mind, and I considered the why. Why did I keep so many of the photos I take? Why did I need so many memories? Doesn’t the memory in my own mind or heart suffice?
Back in the day, if you had a camera roll, you had around 30 photos to take. You were careful. You chose when to use the camera. It was not so readily available in your pocket. If I used a camera with a film roll instead of my iPhone 4, I would spend $9,850 by the time I was 50 just on film. That’s crazy. Yet my phone makes everything convenient. Digital photos don’t cost me a dime, and I only spent $200 on this device. So here we are. Photography, memories, created with a tap of your finger. 59,100 memories each in a photo.
The other day I was talking to my mother on the phone. I am going to visit my parents this week, and I am cleaning out a storage unit that holds all of my childhood in it. Items, memories, toys, clothes, books, etc. I have papers I wrote in high school in that storage unit. I was talking to my mother about it, because she knows as well as I do that I must leave most of those items behind when I return to Maine. I’m shipping what I can, and chucking the rest. Something in me doesn’t want to let go, and I told her so. She said, “You’ve always wanted to keep things, C. You feel as if you can keep your childhood if you can keep those things.” She was right, and it hurt. It hurts to think that I can’t hold on to being a child by holding on to things. I have let go already, but that is a cycle. A cycle of letting go, and looking back again, and letting go again, and over and over. Can I not keep things, yet keep my memories? Can we, as a culture, not realize that we don’t need thousands of photos to keep us company?
I come out of all of these thoughts with these conclusions: memories are more than objects. They are more than photos, no matter how many or how beautiful the visual may be. But most of all, memories are distant for a reason. The human mind holds on to what is necessary. Motor skills, internal dialogue, sensory perception. The mind cares for the parts of the body that need it. Can we not assume from this that memory, perhaps, is distant on purpose? It is not something we must desperately grasp at, I think. It is something we must remember with a certain haze in our mind’s eye. There is a fog over childhood, and a fog over the future because in some ways both are equally unknown. Who can discern what their thoughts were ten or fifteen years ago? It is difficult.
I will let go, then, let go of my photos and my objects and my slips of paper that are truly dust in the wind. When I consider the vast expanse of the universe, my first reading and reviewing of Sartre’s No Exit is tinier than tiny.
Should humans ever regard themselves as anything more than a planet of cobwebs?