I was downtown last Tuesday. I went to see the Austin Museum of Art. I’ve been meaning to go see it. I love art museums. It’s not anything like the Dallas Museum of Art or the Kimball. If you’re expecting something like that, forget it. But if you’re expecting a very small museum that wisely concentrates on one thing, which, in this case seems to be contemporary art in exhibition, it might not disappoint. You pay $5 and get an hour’s worth of thought provoking entertainment. The current exhibit is on memory.
The first room I went to had a mixed media that seemed to be depicting neurons firing with green light. It was metal wire sculptures emanating from a “cortex” of a photograph depicting what looked like a happy family scene. It was accompanied by flowcharts that depicted the artist’s memories and gave them names like Fonzie, Bat Mitzvah and Aunt Gladys. The memories were drawn like little green amoebas, like the green lights in the wire sculpture.
I don’t want to ruin it for you if you want to go, so I won’t tell you about the entire exhibit. There was, however, one exhibit about a group of three friends coming together after ten years to discuss the memory of a certain occurrence during a road trip they had taken together. During the road trip, one of the young women was recounting a story that her parents had told her of how they had experienced something that they thought might have been an alien abduction prior to her birth. It was then that all three people experienced their first viewing of the Northern Lights. The coincidence of the timing of the viewing following the telling of the creepy story had frightened everyone until they heard about the Northern Lights the next day and sort of wrote it off.
Years later, one of the two young women on the trip called up the other, and they recounted their memories. A third traveler, a young man, didn’t even remember the incident until the women started sharing their memories with him in detail.
The video isn’t really all that interesting. What it does remind me of is that memory is largely a function of personal perception. You and I could be present at the exact same circumstance, and we are going to remember and forget different things about that same circumstance. Thus, the difference between a memoir and an autobiography. A memoir, from the same root word as memory, is simply a collection of remembrances of a person’s life seen through the filter of that person’s particular prism of preconceived notions and prejudices. An autobiography, on the other hand, would imply that more care had been taken to be objective, to do research and gather other people’s opinions of key instances in one’s life.
This blog is a form of ongoing memoir. It is vignettes largely about my life as viewed through my particular prism. If anyone else present in my life were to write about the same occurrences it would be a very different story. It would be written from their individual viewpoints, perhaps with them as the protagonists of the story and myself as a minor character. It might be written as hearsay with my friend just trying to remember the plot and details of a particular story I’ve written about my life. Moments that I’ve written as humorous might be viewed by others as profoundly tragic or vice versa.
The point is that thinking of my blog as a form of memoir allows me to be true to myself and share with the world (or a very small collection of no more than six friends and strangers on any given day) my viewpoints. I hope that if they aren’t truthful that they are entertaining, sometimes humorous, always original, and genuine.