Hidden Wires (On Remembering in a Digital Age)

These Hidden Wires

I had the strange experience recently of deeply misunderstanding a situation because the interaction was online, where I misread nuances of words, and was not face-to-face, where I would have been more in tune with things. I don’t want to get into the situation itself, since it has passed and I am fine with it. In the end, I am glad that I was misunderstanding the whole thing, though.

But in my misunderstanding, I started to wonder about the act of remembering in the digital age, and how often, our worlds and daily writing become so ephemeral. Words here. Images there. Videos here. Sounds there. I’ve written along these strands before, I think, but I keep circling back around on it.

It must be important.

How do we remember where we were (and how do our loved ones find us) when what we write and share are scattered in so many online places? Maybe this is why so many people like Facebook — it’s the one-stop social space where. We trade privacy and information ownership for the known anchor point of social media.

I guess I must have been sort of on a morbid path the other day, but I realized: my wife would not likely be able to find much of what I am writing and sharing, if I were suddenly gone. Do I make a list of sites and passwords for her? Honey, here is where all of my songs are … here are my poems … these are my games …. here are my book reviews …. my videos are here and here and here …

Or my sons. They know only a bit of what I do when I am pounding away on the keyboards here. My world as teacher and artists and writer in this space intersects with my world as father at home, of course, but only at times.

Sometimes, I have this vision of my sons, years from now, deep into the future, uncovering the things I have made and created over the years, and realizing: that’s what he was doing: writing songs, writing poems, writing posts, making connections. I remember once finding a vinyl record that my father (a drummer) cut with a band, and it was a sort of powerful magic of listening to him as a musician.

What if that never happens to me and my sons? What if they never find it? What if what we create, just disappears?

We are scattered, and in danger of being lost, forever.

I don’t curate myself nearly enough. Do you?

This thinking, sparked by the misunderstanding, led me to this melody that I found myself writing when thinking of this act of “remembering” the past week. I am not much of a guitar player, as a solo guitarist, and this is where my muse took me. The haiku is part of a daily poetry that I am doing on Twitter.

Will I ever find this poem and this song again? I need to remember …

Peace (together),

  1. Kevin-
    I loved hearing this backstory. However, even more than that, you bring up some really important questions. Would people be able to find “us” if something happened? How would they know to go to my blog for poems and writing, to go to Google, to go to Twitter, to Facebook for photos, etc.? In the past three weeks, I’ve been impacted twice by the reminder that life is so short- when people I know were killed by drunk/elderly drivers. I’ll be curious as to what you decide to do with this.

  2. These are such powerful questions, Kevin. Even for those of us who do not create a lot of tangible stuff, stuff that can get lost, we are creating a life, and we are part of the life of others. How does one curate that? Through story? Through listening? No answers here, but the questions you pose seem really important.

    Also, your post made me think of this word from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: dés vu…the awareness that this will become a memory. Perhaps you have already seen it?


  3. I’ve been thinking about this all day. It’s mom’s first Christmas away from her home of 60 years (she moved to assisted living last summer) and I’m staying in a room across the hall from her at The Legacy. My life feels big and far-reaching now…will it eventually shrink the way the lives of these residents have?

    But maybe their lives haven’t actually shrunk. Maybe they’ve just dispersed all their minutes in child-rearing and chicken-raising, in marriages and businesses, dishes, laundry, windows, gardens, card games, and friendships…Maybe, like Steve said, what we use up in order to make a life can’t really be curated. But maybe, like Carol said, it’s worth a try because life can be cut short so suddenly…

    • Mary Lee, such powerful words about this rupture with the past. I sometimes imagine that the life we live and those we see around us are all a kind of performance art, like a wonderful symphony, or that moment in the jazz club when we might have heard a sound that moved the soul and then moved on. Are these possible to collect? When does the memory fade? And, if no one does collect them…then…what does that mean?

      Here’s a poem by Ted Kooser that struck me as connected both to the residents of The Legacy, and to the whole idea of the performance art of life. As I bear witness to the “hot red hands” of my grandmother (and mother, and the mothers before them) I find myself standing like the “mystified chickens”, too, amazed at the ordinary mastery of their lives.

      All the best to all of you. It’s been fun writing and thinking with you.


      Slap of the screen door, flat knock
      of my grandmother’s boxy black shoes
      on the wooden stoop, the hush and sweep
      of her knob-kneed, cotton aproned stride
      out to the edge and then, toe in
      with a furious twist and heave,
      a bridge that leaps from her hot red hands
      and hangs there shining for fifty years
      over the mystified chickens,
      over the swaying nettles, the ragweed,
      the clay slope down to the creek,
      over the redwing blackbirds in the tops
      of the willows, a glorious rainbow
      with an empty dishpan swinging at one end.

      –Ted Kooser

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