“one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.”
This is an excerpt from a poem called Forgetfulness by Billy Collins, and just as we forget the details of things we’ve learned, we will be forgotten. This isn’t the point of the poem that Collins wrote, but that’s the thought that occurred to me. It’s actually a recurring thought that I have, that the poem reminded me of: so many people, throughout history, have come and gone. So many people that have been forgotten, their memories retired to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
I try to think of the people I’ve forgotten. Not an easy thing if you can’t remember them in the first place. But how many people that I’ve never met have been forgotten. How many people have lived full lives, only to be forgotten. Did they do anything great? What is great?
Sure we remember the famous ones: Albert Einstein, Plato, Abraham Lincoln, Christopher Columbus. But what about Christopher Columbus’ mother and father? What about his children? Did he have children?
We shed tears for the famous when they’re gone, but who sheds tears for the unknown? Millions shed tears when Prince died, but how many shed tears when my Great Grandfather died? How many remember my Great Grandfather? I don’t. He died before I was born. The unnumbered tears that have been shed, for loved ones, and what is it for? Only to be forgotten by time.
In what is truly a bizarre coincidence, on the day I read Billy Collin’s poem, the poem for poem-a-day was American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin. As we disappear, forgotten from this world, will we be there on the Internet? Forever embedded unlike past generations? They say the Internet never forgets. Will it never forget us? The way some of us wish it would? Or will our Facebook photos still be available 1000 years from now?
But, even if they are. Will someone remember to look?