The Vow — The Self — The Meaning

from The Vow

from The Vow

11 February 2014
3:51 pm


T. —

I agree with you that the movie could have gone deeper without using Leo as Paige’s anchor. But I don’t think that means  that Paige didn’t go through that process of struggling with her life and the memories she had lost. I just think she did them off screen. There’s a huge time cut towards the end, isn’t there — where Leo almost starts dating someone, and suddenly Paige shows up at his door. And there’s even more of a time jump in the last scene, where she has to catch him up on her development, and correct him when he suddenly thinks she has remembered things.

I think Paige works on sculptures of trees because they are always reaching for something, always growing and lengthening, reaching and deepening. I think trees are consistent and strong, and I think Paige would be drawn to that certainty, that quiet, core knowledge of self that doesn’t waver.

I love Leo’s moment of impact theory, and I’ve been thinking all day about how it applies to your question about memory and what we might become if we suddenly forgot what made us who we are.

My thought experiment #1: Imagine a time traveler, like Henry, for whom the world of time is a canvas. Imagine this time-traveler going back and changing one moment, which then jettisoned his future onto a completely separate trajectory. Imagine he returns to the present to find everything changed around him. Imagine the need to adapt to a completely new life. This is one scenario, but unlikely (until we master time travel).

Thought experiment #2: Imagine you lose 5 years of your memories. Imagine there is no one around to remind  you — you just wake up, and you are still who you were 5 years ago. Imagine you can remember what you think happened yesterday, but imagine that you don’t even know there was a gap a time that you are missing. Imagine you can’t really tell why you are here, in this strange certain place, so you go back to what is familiar, which is your past, which is what you have known. Imagine you start up that life again, not really aware of the fact that you left it, or that you have done anything differently.

And yet… in thought experiment #2, there is obviously something missing. And that missing thing is time, a collection of moments, a semblance of events that have all happened to you, whether you are cognizant of those moments or not. Imagine you are trying to restart your five-year-ago life, and it works for a while, because it is what you know and what you are conscious of.

Then, imagine you are temporarily stunned by a strange affinity for trees. Consciously, you don’t know why. But subconsciously, there are things that are far more familiar than five-years-ago.

I don’t think those things have to be remembered to be known. I don’t think they have to be conscious to be present. I don’t think they have to be formulated or vocalized in order to be significant. I think they lurk under the surface. And whether or not they ever re-emerge, I think their once-presence and then-forgottenness irrevocably shapes your future trajectory. I don’t know how much of it has to do with trust. You ask: how do we trust ourselves again? Maybe a better question is: how do we trust ourselves at allHow do we know that returning to what feels safe is actually a form of betraying ourselves? Maybe it’s just a type of starting over from what feels familiar. Who knows what can be built out of that safe harbor.

I think — when in doubt — return to a place where we can restart and rebuild.

Maybe the key is to make right now the best place to return to, in case of a lapse of memory. Make right now the key moment, the magnet, the pulse that calls us back.

I’ve been thinking a lot about self and meaning and connection and relationships over the past few days, and what I’ve come up with so far is very Heideggerian:

“I’m not sure about his view of Self-hood (aka I don’t remember), but Heidegger’s philosophy is very much rooted in interaction: that meaning arises from how we use or fail to use, how we discover the essence of things-in-the-world, or fail to discover, how those interactions change us, or fail to change us.”


Infinite Beasts
Rhona McAdam

From time to time I watch you closely, with new eyes,
appreciating how much of you I haven’t seen.
And I’m no longer sure whether it’s what I know of you
that attracts me, or what I might find.

When we met, I thought knowledge had limits, that in love
we were infinite beasts who shared known boundaries.
But watching you touch objects for which I have no desire
I see a measure of longing in your eyes
that forces me to say, I don’t know you yet. That forces
me to say, there are places in you I may not wish to know.

In love we are beasts of infinity, crude in our longing
for things that may carry us apart. It’s more than biology
or romance, more than drawing thorns from feet
with gentled fangs, more than all we have been told;

It’s finding a reason to come together
without killing the wildness we each carry,
like a gift we haven’t decided to share
and hold inside ourselves with only the edges showing.


I love writing to you. I love our letters and our conversations. I also love sharing them with other people. I’m so glad we’re doing this, here, now.



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