To capture a moment in writing is to step out of it; to preserve that moment means to no longer be a part of it. Of course I can think back on that day at the beach after it has naturally played itself out, perhaps later that day, or the following week or decade. But it is a commonplace that memories lose their sharp edges and mix with our desire to have found that almost perfect sea urchin shell on her birthday. Surely it was then. And it was purple, her favorite color, or was it gray. I don’t know because it crumbled to dust later and is gone. If I do not attend to events almost as they happen, I do not see them well enough to write about them. To write about my life is to live it differently because stepping out of my life becomes an essential part of living it. I must give my life up to keep it, an annoying paradox because it is both facile and bleak.
But I must write. If I am not doing that, my life becomes meaningless because it is simply lived, not reflected on. And as Plato has Socrates say in the Apology, “The unexamined etc. is not worth etc.” If I walk out the back door and down the hill across the thawing, muddy surface of the driveway and down again past the wood pile with its scattered mess of sugar maple bark arcs that have detached themselves from the logs I have spilt over the winter like scabs from a healed wound, if I walk this way and do not somehow take notice of them as separate from me and worthy of notice, then they disappear into the stream of events that flow through my life and have value only insofar as they create me. That is not enough value to make those events meaningful because I am so ephemeral. But if they form the basis of discourse that can spread from mind to mind, beyond the here and the present, then the world takes on meaning beyond me and beyond the subject of that discourse.
But is that meaning necessary. Isn't being itself enough meaning. The Prime Mover says, “I am who am.” And what is the difference between my wish to write about my life and the compulsion of someone who must share on Facebook and Twitter. In a story by Tovia Smith on All Things Considered today, she interviewed a psychologist, Joseph Burgo, about the Boston Strong Tchotchke phenomenon and the attraction of displaying your support for something. Burgo complained, “I think there's a kind of a feeling that unless you share your experience with other people it isn't entirely real to you unless you announce it to other people . . . . It's just part of this narcissistic culture of ours where everything is about self-display." However, I would like to think that my desire to say something well, to use language derive meaning that can be shared may make it about more than self-display. Just because I experienced something, that does not make it interesting, but in the telling of it I can both shine and disappear in the same act.