Meme As Vehicular Gift To Find A Human Aura

Stopped by the lovely Miss Mayjah’s blog this morning and found this meme-slash-call-to-action:

“If you know me at all, you know I’m a sucker for memes. Anika of Faboo Mama fame posted on Twitter about this Flickr meme and, well, you can guess the rest. Here’s what she said: ‘It works like this: if you use Flickr, go to the sixth page of your photostream and pick the sixth picture there, then post it to your blog.'”

So, I did. And I’m quite pleased with what I found:

This is my grandmother (my father’s mother, the one who recently died) in a snowy Chicago, 1948. I think it’s one of the most beautiful photographs I’ve ever seen, to be honest. And to boot, I adore her hat.

It’s been funny writing lately. As you may have noticed, most of the posts here on SFLS have been images. I suppose that, with her death and then the holidays, I’ve been moving into other mediums to express myself…which I do from time to time. I’ve also been reading the letters and the journals that she saved.

Dr. M, on Tuesday said, “What a unique and strange gift she gave you.”

Anyway, this is really why I love memes. When I think I’m just too overwhelmed with information (I’ve learned quite a bit in the last week from my grandmother’s journal and her diligently labeled photographs), along comes a little vehicle that makes it easier to approach the meat of the subject I want to write about.

That’s a little gift, too, I think.

I’m not quite ready to write and share about everything I’ve learned from Grandma’s photographs and journals and letters. So much of it is painful, and some of it is a true “family secret” revolving around her first husband (my father’s father).

Sometimes I think I’m not supposed to have the information, the records that I do…but then, who else would they be left for? Certainly, I am the archivist in the family.

So, was I “meant” to be the one who took them? I do know that this legacy she left, it will survive while I have it.

I have this inclination towards preservation. Even artwork I’ve made and then “killed” — like an installation/effigy of Jacques Cousteau I made during the Barn Aesthetic Collective days in Santa Cruz — has a record: photographs, accounts.

I hang onto these. And now, the internet/technology is this best/worst means of preservation and archival tendencies. Best because it’s so easy. I scan, I write, I record and it’s in this cloud forever.

But possibly worst because we care less about the original things and their aura? And (argh!) here’s where I find myself going back yet again to “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. I am so terribly doomed by the Frankfurt School, Benjamin and Adorno (thanks a lot, formal edu-ma-cation).

Does this all draw back to our need for connection with other people? A need so thirsty that we even look for it in the life-ness or the aliveness of things, which are, after all, testaments to the aliveness of a real, live person. Is it the original painting that has the aura, or the testament the original painting holds as being closer to the artist, and the artist as a person. Those were his brushstrokes?

The journals weren’t hidden. They stood on her library shelf in plain view. And, myself being a writer, I can tell she wrote for an audience. Grandma’s accounts were detailed, but short and mostly bereft of her own emotion, thoughts and examination of herself. Her feelings.

What it’s ending up doing is making me learn some about empathy. There are so many people in my life where I know it would help me (and most likely, if only as a side-effect, them) to feel more empathy towards (or with). Certainly my grandmother. Certainly my father. My mother. My sisters. Jack.

I’ll just breathe for now and take the lessons one at a time, as they come. Assuring myself that it is what it is, and everything is the way it should be.

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