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Monday, July 27, 2009


Retiring from a former life requires diligent purging. The old chrysalis must be fully detached before a newly devised being, mostly of our own choosing, can continue along the chosen path. There was that life and now there is this life and all those old things won't fit. Belongings are easy. Paper is the bane of my existence.

As long as we are alive on this planet, we are going to leave a paper trail. Certainly if we maintain a home and vehicles, deal with money in it's various forms, expect to leave anything to the next generation or deal with any taxing authority. Someone, probably my Executor, is going to be dealing with that for years after my demise. Any Executor knows you are not dead until the IRS says you are, which is exactly the second after the time period you are required to keep records. Then, you are good and dead.

So, this is the month I rid myself of extraneous file boxes, keeping only what is essential. My parents and an uncle are now reduced to one section of an accordion file, each containing a birth certificate, a death certificate, a will and a closing statement. I don't even need that. But, these things are filed along with expired passports, marriage certificates and titles to all the properties I ever owned. The record if their lives are now stored with the other mementos.

All I need is memory to bring them back and of course, I have wonderful photographs. Still, something is irretrievably gone. The closest I can come to describing it is "voice". Most of that comes from the written word and none of these people did that. Certainly, autobiographies are for those who consider their lives above the fray and are capable of producing (without a blush), ego driven expositions that assume the public would be interested in more details of their lives than are generally known. Although autobiographies are always suspect, biographers and their subjects make fine reading. Neither applies to the casual writer.

What is needed here, it would seem, is a "commonplace book", defined as a personal journal in which quotations, essays, literary excerpts, quips and comments about one's own or other's observations are gathered. Quite a few exist as published material; one of the best is "A Certain World" by W. H. Auden. In fact, he described it as the closest thing to an autobiography he would ever write. It was "a map of his planet". These compilations require a curious mind, reasonable intelligence, some facility with language and naturally, something to say, for judgements will be made on whether we will be spending time with each other, or moving on.

Blogging, with it's freewheeling structure fits this description perfectly. The author's choice of subject matter, the manner of expression and the response to it are multi layered and more personally revealing than a formal narrative. The medium is so inherently flexible that if something you observe resonates within your psyche as familiar, a response can be made immediately and a communication established. Here is the vital difference between histories and blogs. Blogs are two way streets. Each is a personal vision of the author's world; the "voice" we hear. It is not only possible to see how someone's mind works in these circumstances, it is inevitable.

My name has not escaped me, yet. But, as it turns out, it is the least important thing you need to know.

* ("My Name Escapes Me" - Alec Guiness. Written upon his retirement - one of them).

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