Boudha Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal
As I walked through Boudhanath, Kathmandu, one evening in September of 2013, under a light rain, I was enveloped in the crowd. Everyone was headed in the same direction, toward the Great Stupa. I was reminded of Barcelona, where I had been the week before. But here, instead of heading to the plaza to sip wine and share food with family and friends, we were headed to a sacred place to walk in brisk clockwise circles murmuring prayers.. or chatting with family and friends. I love both customs and the way they bring people together in a shared space at the same time.
Things Remembered, 20 x 16, $450
My protagonist in WAY OF THE SERPENT falls in love with an artist – Luis-Martín Zenobia – who was educated as an anthropologist. Here is what he wrote about art and memory:
Time was when memory existed solely in the minds of men and women, and the elders of the society were its treasury. As humankind evolved, art became the handmaiden of memory, encoding in images – and in stories that were recited or sung or danced – the episodes and values that defined a people. Writing was the next revolution of memory. The printing press was another. Digital electronic storage took memory to the next level but also put it at risk as never before. In every age, people believed their encoded memories to be somehow infallible, unassailable, invulnerable. They were always wrong, but the notion was pervasive and reassuring. It still is.
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We are all time travelers. It’s just that most of the time, the limit of 24 hours per day, 365 (and ¼) days per year in strict linear succession is pretty rigorously enforced. Once in a while, though, we get to transcend those limits. I had such an opportunity this past week, reminiscing in the company of old friends. I had a visit on Monday from someone who was a very important part of my life back in the early 1970s. On Tuesday I traveled to Dallas and spent time with a few of my favorite people from my graduate school years in the last half of the 1970s. Then Thursday night I met up with some dear friends from my undergraduate years in the late 1960s. Time has treated all of us differently. Our experiences apart from each other occupy far more days and years than the ones during which we were interacting on a daily basis. And yet… the reasons why we became friends remain apparent. Sure, we evoke the past by sharing stories, but we also listen with interest to stories about things we were not a part of, and by sharing those stories we catch up the threads that continue to bring us together, year after year. See you again soon, guys!
(IMAGE: The timeless stairway of Dallas Hall at SMU.)