I’ve always been exceptionally interested in philosophy. Epistemology is the study of knowledge, including memory. No two people remember the same circumstances in the same way and no one remembers something in the same way each successive time. Throughout the course of my lifetime, I’ve always been quite smitten with memories of very long ago. I seem to have quite a utopian, Garden-of-Eden ish relationship with the long ago past. A good example of this is in a conversation I had a few years ago with my cousin Gary’s daughter Tina. Gary grew up in Queens and his wife Maria is from Brooklyn. Their kids, Joseph and Tina, lived in Brooklyn until they were twelve and ten years old. Tina told me they were so crazy about Brooklyn because they were from there. I’ve always said the same thing about Queens, having lived there until my twelfth birthday. The more I’ve thought it over since then, though, the more I’ve recognized that it wouldn’t have been the same if I could have been lucky enough to have lived there throughout my entire lifetime. The everyday practical realities of life there would have made it impossible to recognize significantly the good things. The present tense is filled with boring, ordinary chores and habits. What is fr
esh, by definition, will inevitably become stale with time. That’s why each of us always complains about his being taken for granted. Nothing and no one ever truly satisfies. The faraway past, though, precisely because it’s no longer available, can be quite intoxicating. Pop culture is yet another example of how I tend to see the distant past. Ever since I was a kid I’ve always thought of the 1960’s as the most interesting time frame of all, and that’s only possible precisely because of their never having been available to me in the present tense. I was born in 1959. Besides that, the older I get the more easily I’m able to recognize all the interesting things that were going on during my youth. Recent vivid memories can be especially nice but they lack the property of availability to the imagination. Memories from a bygone era are literally representative of another world entirely. It’s like everything I’ve ever heard and read about good literature. A good literary work should tell a sufficient amount of the story, yet at the same time it should leave enough available in order that the reader may put himself into the story and imagine more than the author provides. The distant past, unlike the recent past, makes that possible too. I’m a bookworm for the same reason I enjoy the distant past. It allows my imagination to wander into a world that’s otherwise entirely unavailable.