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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Remembering: on not forgetting to forget

It's a been a while since I last posted. I wonder why. I must say that I've been feeling a certain degree of aversion about engaging with my blogs. If I'm honest enough, this activity of 'putting myself out here' in this nonspace of the Internet can and has been a means of playing a certain game of 'ego stroking'; so I suppose it's not a bad thing to take a break from it. I have in the past felt a compulsion to constantly produce stuff to maintain a constant traffic to my blogs. But it's all rather silly isn't it? Seeking attention and validation from 'readers' who are really imaginary, non-entities, for how could I ever truly know who 'you' are or what you truly think, even if you show up as statistics on my blogs? Ah well... nevertheless, I shall attempt to post again on a semi-regular basis because these blogs are a means for me to document thoughts-in-progress which could inform my research/writing/thinking process.

Anyway, I encountered this interesting article about two months ago in The Guardian: 'Why we must remember to delete--and forget in the digital age.' The notion of 'forgetting' Mayer-Schönberger suggests reminds me of the following thoughts by Foucault on language and the 'outside' of thought (previously posted here):
Language in its every word, is indeed directed at contents that preexist it; but in its own being, provided that it holds as close to its being as possible, it only unfolds in the pureness of the wait. Waiting is directed at nothing: any object that could gratify it would only efface it. Still, it is not confined to one place, it is not a resigned immobility; it has the endurance of a movement that will never end and would never promise itself the reward of rest; it does not wrap itself in interiority; all of it falls irremediably outside. Waiting cannot wait for itself at the end of its own past, nor rejoice in its own practice, nor steel itself once and for all, for it was never lacking courage. What takes it up is not memory but forgetting. This forgetting… is  extreme attentiveness.
Foucault's poetic musing about language is a fitting allegory for the mindful attitude that is required in meditation practice. To explicate my interpretation by way of an example: during my recent retreat, there was some miscommunication which led to a misunderstanding with the abbot of the hermitage. After clearing the misunderstanding, I went back to my room to meditate. What I observed was a certain tendency of the mind to replay the events that had just happened, a tendency to repeatedly find 'reasons' to take responsibility for what had happened. Yet, following reason the misunderstanding was clearly not 'my' fault. What I observed was a certain unwillingness to forget the 'self', which then led to a certain inability to forgive the 'self'.

So perhaps, as Mayer-Schönberger suggests, in this contemporary digital media environment where dreams, aspirations, and memories--the sights, sounds, and traces of brief lives--now take on a seemingly other-worldly and timeless quality in the nonspace of the Internet, it is important to remember to forget. Or to paraphrase Foucault, it is perhaps important to cultivate a kind of forgetting that is not so much memory but an extreme attentiveness: a mindful attitude that constantly lets go of the tendency to want to hold onto those ephemeral and insubstantial, illusive and delusive feelings/thoughts about the self (to DELETE them as it were) that hamper forgivingness, and hence the enacting of friendliness, kindness, compassion.... I am reminded also of that famous saying by the thirteenth century Zen master, Dōgen Zenji:
To study the self is to forget the self.....