Photo by  Aaron Burden  on  Unsplash

The Gift, or, Keeping On

One of the best presents we as a couple have received (speaking for myself) is a five-year notebook — a small vessel in which to store stockpiled memories. To stockpile stored memories? In its own way, this process too has been an exercise in the cultivation of daily delight, with each night (or, more recently, the following morning) offering the opportunity to take stock of the day, to consider, to reflect, sort, discard, choose, edit, to confront the presented glass and decide whether to declare it half-full or half-empty. Social media in a microcosm, for our eyes only.

Isn’t, though, this always the case? How do we present ourselves to the world? What stories do we tell, even when our only audience is our future self? Are we always our first audience? Our sole audience?

And what knowledge, what wisdom, what insight our future selves possess, when looking back over life’s pages. A pleading entry from last July, its hopeful message about a possible baby overnight breakthrough might be met with a gentle, yet unmistakable snort, knowing now of the months ahead before that breakthrough actually materialized. Knowing too, that everyone survived. Peering into our past, we bear witness to both the souring of delight over time and its unexpected blossoming. We know these stories, our stories, haven’t ended, yet we often succumb to the temptation to tell them as though they have, as though we know their ending.

It’s the revisiting of past delights, greeting them now as old friends, that so delights me, for within a few words, a sentence or two scribbled into this notebook, we (re)discover not just the referential delight, but also a whole network of interconnected attendant delights, a veritable colony of related titillations (sidenote: just who came up with that word? and who at the end of the day gave its use the go-ahead? whom did it bribe to enter our lexicon? this is surely a word that aptly describes its own birth) whose re-emergence comes on the heels of that first delight, the mother. No impulse drive necessary — this is time travel on the cheap. Delights present and delights past are both perhaps present in delights future, and delights future contained in delights past…

This practice reveals to us a glimpse of how much we don’t know that we know, even as it destabilizes our understanding of what it means to know.

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