Haruo Shirane writes in his book Traces of Dreams: Landscape, Cultural memory and the Poetry of Basho that, in the
The point that i’m trying to make is that it is not the new or the unique that matters, but rather what remains. Experiencing the present is impossible for us. We live our lives through our memories and it is with our memories that we construct an identity for ourselves - minute fragments of experience that weave together throughout our lives, constantly building and reshaping that abstract concept we call the self.
Our present is constantly belated - in the minute amount of time that it takes for our eyes to collect the light from the outside world, send it to our brains for interpretation and the eventual image that appears in our mind to form, that instant has already come and passed and we are presented with a glimpse of a world that is already lost to us.
We live in our memories and it is our memories that make us who we are.
How then do we document this lost world? How do we begin to successfully map something that seems as simple to us as our own lives when, under scrutiny, we realise that so much of it is already lost to us; that even our most present experience has already fallen victim to the passage of time? The truth is that we can't. And yet, perhaps there are other ways of considering it.
Just as the experience of the world leaves its traces upon us, so do we leave echoes of our passage on the world around us. Like the crease on the blanket, these traces point to our space in the world. Like the negative space of a letter form, they give us our shape.
Through the experience of memory, these traces represent that part of ourselves that is always present, and though an examination of them we can maybe begin to understand, if not experience, that part of ourselves that is always lost to us.