Volatile Memory

I see that Susan Sontag, the famous writer and "intellectual," has died at age 71. That's pretty old, I suppose, and it's not like she missed much in her days here. I read that her book collection, which filled every wall of her apartment, has been acquired by UCLA.

Even with the archiving of the books, what an amazing compendium of information must have died with her when that amazing brain finally shut down. I picture a towering library closing its doors forever, then collapsing and being swallowed up by the earth.

Anything she might have thought of today, or tomorrow, any new combination of the ideas she had gathered, any insight she might have shared in a conversation with one of her many friends, is now canceled. All we have is what she has already said or written and what people remember of her.

I guess that's enough. It has to be, right? I don't really understand meaningfulness as it relates to temporariness.

I don't even understand why I always find myself trying to figure it out and I never seem able to move on. Once in a while I can come up with a wise-sounding aphorism that sums it all up and is phrased so convincingly that you'd swear I had come to terms with life's fleeting nature. Something like: "You can't take it with you. But you can leave it here."

But I don't know. I just don't.

How can an ocean of truth disappear behind closed eyelids? How can a moment be forgotten so easily? How can every pattern in the sand eventually be washed away, with no one around to see it? How can the sea cover the land and erase thousands of lives over the weekend, while I sit half a world world away and eat my cereal and never think to even turn on the TV to find out about it?

And how can a person wonder and wonder and wonder about the same thing for years and never seem to approach an understanding of it?

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