involuntary memory

Reading Proust makes me reflect on involuntary memory, a concept that I’m perpetually fascinated by. Something seemingly mundane occurs in your everyday life and that transports you to a certain point in your past; a valve opens without a conscious effort on your part, and a sluice of memories suddenly washes over you. A common trigger for me is certain smells. From these I experience the deepest, most intense recollections. Hearing certain songs or parts of songs sometimes also has this effect. Because I have a memory that approaches the photographic, these recollections are particularly vivid and can even induce a trance-like state. I stop short of calling my memory truly photographic, because my mind has not retained one hundred percent coverage of past events. But I can, either at will or involuntarily, view many specific “scenes” from my past that are painted in the most exquisite detail. For me, involuntary memory is something to indulge in when it occurs, while at the same time exploring its significance on a personal artistic level.

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