Right now. I am writing this blog, cooking some chicken, and listening to music. For me though, now is a rather large amount of time, when I think of all my movements compiled into a ‘now’ point. I set my timer for 40 minutes a few minutes ago. The timer is ‘now’ running, but I set it in the past… part of my continuous now moment. Now however, does not always work this way. Now is subjective… and as soon as I can say the word ‘now,’ it’s then.
Edmund Husserl, in his essay, “The Constitution of Temporal Objects,” from his book The Phenomenology of the Internal Time-Consciousness tells us that our experiences begin to “blur and draw together” the further we move away from them. The ‘now’ I had when I set my timer, is beginning to blend into a past. A past that, tomorrow morning, will be one blob of ‘last night.’ And all my ‘last nights’ eventually blur into ‘last month’s nights’ and so on. “Blur and draw together.”
This morning I walked to my coffee shop and on the way, read an excerpt from Marcel Proust’s epic novel In Search of Lost Time, which used to be called Remembrance of Things Past. In the 2nd chapter of Swann’s Way, Marcel remembers his childhood home.
At the house, the setting is always grey and the time is perpetually 7 o’clock in the evening – bedtime for the young narrator. Later, Marcel tastes a petite madeleine dipped in tea, and this sparks more memories for him.
And this whole narrative causes me to think about the house where I grew up. that tiny green house in Huntington Beach. I remember that house as fondly as I might a family member. I remember it with such vividness – the color of the carpet in the dining room – the claw-foot bathtub in the bathroom – I had not ever considered to attempt to remember it the way Proust’s character does. And so:
If I stand in the street and look at the house, it’s morning. It’s time fore school. White fog is rolling in from the ocean and blanketing everything. But if I stand on the porch and look out, it’s daytime – sunny and bright. Each room of my little house contains a different set of memories – the living room is filled with Christmas, string games, blanket fort building, Saturday morning cartoons, and uncles. My parent’s bedroom is all spankings, reading Star Trek books with my dad, and brown quilts.
And so I wonder whether or not I remember more about my childhood than most people. If so, why do I remember so much so vividly? If not, why don’t more people talk about their memories from when they were little? Why does Proust have this singular memory of bedtime and the staircase, and I have hundreds of memories all over my house?
As I delve deeper into the study of time, memory surfaces again and again. It is such a subjective experience, both broken and powerful. Would that we could put Proust and Husserl in a room together and see what happens….