Tuesday, 27 November 2012
It's a whole inner landscape or inner country that I'm familiar with, that I've wandered through hundreds of times, that's as vivid to me as the outside reality I'm seeing right now. Yet nobody else has set foot in it.
If I think of my boarding school, for example, a whole swathe of memories spreads across my mind, a whole panorama of teenage bullies, uninspired teachers, muddy sports fields and loud rock music. There's no way I can convey the full flavour of those memories to anyone else. However well chosen the words, they can only suggest a tiny fragment of what my inner eye is seeing.
It's like trying to conjure up Venice to someone who's never been there. I can describe it, I can show you a few pictures, but I can't give you the full three-dimensional reality of being there and discovering it for yourself.
It doesn't matter if the memories are true or false, accurate or distorted. The point is that they inhabit my mind but they don't inhabit yours. They fill out and embellish my past to give it a completeness that nobody else can know.
I can remember a particular girlfriend, say, and exactly how she spoke and moved and ate and laughed and undressed. However detailed my account of her, you will never see her as clearly as I can see her in my memories. You will never be able to imagine the living, breathing, animated person that I can instantly visualise.
If only I could transfer those memories, how much more you would know about me and my inner experience. If only you could download them from my brain and play them back through your own senses, in all their astonishing intricacy.
But no, they're mine and mine alone, circulating my mind like guests at a party, furnishing me with endless private scenarios I can't communicate. A whole chunk of my identity as inaccessible as the Milky Way.