Nonfic: Living in a pile of stories

A short post before bedtime: In recent months I’ve been thinking of all the things I’ve written over the years as a kind of pile — not that I keep my writings in a literal pile (well, not one big pile, anyway), but that, no matter what kind of process I went through to write a text (whether poem, nonfiction, note-to-self, published piece, etc.), once I’m done, I might as well throw it in a pile. It’s dead to me, in a way. Not really dead, but just past. It’s not what I’m working on now. It was created by, and reflects, a person I was in the past. (I feel like I’m not the same person now as I was a few hours ago, and I won’t be the same me  later. If I were the same me, I wouldn’t have to leave notes to myself reminding me of things I have to do later. I have to leave these notes  for myself much as I’d leave a note to someone else: where will I be likely to see it? Often, that means a note on my car’s dashboard.)

So the pile of work — it can be interesting to dive into at times, though I feel myself resisting reading through all of it. But the idea of the pile also helps me let go of things I’ve written, and even things I’ve thought, in the past. I don’t have to hold onto them. And this I value, too, since I’ve started thinking of my mind as inhabiting a world of ideas, of stories, of metaphors, of concepts — all of which are not the same as raw experience of physical reality. My memories of experiences seem to be recorded as ideas and as narratives, though those are interpretations of experience, not experiences themselves. I remind myself I can let go of these interpretations — they are ideas about what really happened, but are not the same as the reality. I remind myself that I don’t really know what someone meant by their statement or by their actions — maybe I don’t even know what I meant by my statements and actions.

And my wife said tonight that some people still believe that reality can be fully known, interpreted, and understood. She used to believe that, too, she said, adding that she may believe that again some day.

Of course, I also noticed this idea about not holding too tightly onto my interpretations when I read it in one of my notebooks from 2006. A text from the pile, an idea from my past — past ideas can be useful in the present. But that’s no reason not to question them, too.

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