Thursday, March 22, 2007

Places forget people

Places have a way of forgetting people.

As of today the place we have called “our home” now belongs to someone else. Place we inhabit become a subconscious part of our identity.

Places, however, have no memory. This house will not remember Joy and me or the happy years we spent here. To the people who bought 310 Union St it is just an empty space for them to use, just as it was for us when we moved in. As I was cleaning the basement I came across old writing in cement:

“DEC. 5, 1977 LAURA

I had seen the scrawled letters before, but as I am packed to leave I became curious about this person who had lived in my home, writing her name in the drying cement almost 30 years ago –just a few weeks before I was born. I wonder where Laura is now, or even if she is still living. Had she been a girl she would still likely be in her 40's now. If she was an adult at the time she could be quite elderly now. I wonder how her life turned out. I wonder if she remembers scrawling her name in wet concrete of this basement three decades ago?

The impersonal nature of the world always feels cruel to relational creatures such as ourselves. We want the physical world to remember us, to hold some evidence of our lives. Perhaps this relational nature even more than superstition makes us imagine ghosts of people who lived in our spaces long ago still inhabit them. This is the reason we leave monuments bearing our names throughout the world? Of course, none of this matters. People in the future will look back on our names as dull and empty symbols.

No object or place can maintain a relationship. We all eventually move on. A few hundred years from now and no one will know that any of us ever existed. Those who are remembered only can only hope to become lifeless notes in historical records –a historical figure: the exact opposite of a person, who lives, and loves, and hopes. Even still we hold on tightly...

I marked on the pavement beside Laura's inscription:

“JOHN & JOY: 2004-2007”

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