Erasing the past

A chronicle of the present turns almost instantly into a record of the past. The narrative soon becomes an archive. ¬†Yet whatever the account, it is always a description of a person, object or event; and more frequently than not, a description of moderate amusement and as regularly of forgotten detail. It is partly for this reason alone that I hesitate to erase any of the written past; there is a risk of removing a diary of what might one day prove to be both entertaining and even valuable. The little I recall of the past has taught me as well that the evolution of amendment is far greater than we’re inclined to credit other than casually or superciliously. That is, there persists an unspecified value in the record of the past.

The fact nonetheless remains that there are occasions when one might prefer to erase the past, not only one’s private details (say, for publicity or legal reasons) but also one’s public record of communications with others (say, about people from whom one is estranged by forensic or personal conflict). In both instances (private or public) it is of course a fruitless ambition. Erasing the past neither dilutes nor destroys it. The past, as remote or forgettable as we may imagine or prefer it to be, never disappears from sight other than metaphorically. The project of erasing is thus perhaps better characterized as a psychological undertaking whereby one blanks it out without actually eradicating it – though I confess that this mental enterprise is normally as fruitless as any other in my experience. As long as one harbours regret, nastiness or revenge, the images of those recollections from the past will prove more powerful than opposing forces.

It is generally reputed that forgiveness of past differences is the model of perfect behaviour. Naturally the application may be both to others and to oneself. It thus amounts to an equality bred not so much of entitlement as reciprocity. Which I suppose is legitimate because seldom is the excuse for absolution the prerogative. It is this ambivalent agreement to wipe the slate clean which distinquishes its irresolute nature; that is, the effort is in spite of appearances futile. Once again erasing the past is a logical impossibility. And sadly forgetting the past or rising above it is as frequently misrepresentative.

Having kept a mundane written record of my life since the age of 15 I have also unwittingly garnered that little of the distinguishing features of my life has changed in spite of my education, career or personal involvements. The character of the beast is bred in the bone; and is as immutable as the acorn of an oak tree. The inflexibility affects every feature of the product. For this reason I have abandoned whatever pursuit I may once have had to erase the past. It is by any calculation a dead end street. The good side of the admonition however is that I am similarly spirited to continue my journals, admitting their worthlessness on the one hand and recognizing their worthiness on the other. Hidden almost imperceptibly within these streams of consciousness are the traces of meaning and perception which together form a catalogue of elixirs.