My ritual Saturday soak at Hotel Royal Palm, high on a hill overlooking the beach at Citera, always settles me down, makes me less anxious and more open to possibilities. This indoor pool, fed by a boiling fumerole, is the size of a tennis court and is divided into deep and shallow sections. Ghostly wisps of steam rise from the surface of the pale blue water. The minerals in this allegedly healing brew are radioactive, and taste of salt.
In a long discussion of T.S. Eliot the other day, Harold suddenly turned to the subject of memory. And of course I was keen to hear his views on it, especially as they might apply to my theory of the origin and purpose of Vittoria’s amnesia. In my mind her forgetting all things Italian was beautifully metaphoric.
“Memory,” Harold had said, “creates our sense of self. But on the whole our recollection of the past is fragmented. It’s revised and shaped by our awareness of the present.”
Hmmm, I thought. Another way of saying we remember only what we wish.
“For instance," Harold continued, "if a woman learns her husband has been having a long-term affair, then all her memories of the marriage are instantly transformed. Which means memory is as malleable as lead. Also, it evolves over a lifetime. By the age of thirty a man has had experiences that are significant. But only at fifty and beyond can he finally perceive their long-range consequences.”
“Which is how we acquire wisdom,” I said.
“Yes. But more accurately it’s how we fashion our personal myths. “
“Convenient lies about ourselves!”
“Oh, no. Not falsehoods, but a comprehensive expression of our individual reality. One that speaks more to our hearts than to our minds. We all seek to generate a conviction that what we believe is true, or ought to be.”
“Seems we’re getting close to what novelists and artists do.”
Harold nodded. “Yes. T.S. Eliot captured it nicely:
This is the use of memory
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire and so liberation
From the future as well as the past…