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John Pai - In Memory's Lair
New Space

In Memory’s Lair

Unlike a dream, which comes unexpectedly and exits at inopportune moments leaving us grappling thin air for its proper conclusion, memory sleeps in its lair ready to be awakened at every beck and call like a trusted friend. How surprising then was it, when on a routine visit to one of my familiar memories where I remembered every element in vivid detail, I suddenly discovered that it was not that way at all.
Some time ago, I had placed some objects on a platter on our dining room table and left them there for several weeks. Nearly every day, I walked by this setting and even without looking, I felt I knew what was there. Then came a day when I needed those objects, and I went directly to the place I remembered. They weren't there! I looked for hours and hours and could not find them. Frustrated and confused, I abandoned search until a few days later when I decided to retrace my steps and search again. Again I looked at the platter and again it was empty. However, on another platter next to it, an elaborately painted Japanese antique, the objects (small rubber washers) sat spread out in a pattern perfectly integrated in to the painting.
How could this be? I distinctly remembered them sitting in the other one and clearly how they looked.
My mind had created a convincing picture that I believed in for weeks, but it was not real. How many other similar instances were there in the past that I was not aware of? Memory is like an extended womb integral to nearly every human endeavor. It's a bit unnerving, but then again perhaps also amusing, to think that maybe it has a life of its own.

—John Pai, January 28, 2013

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