The Colossus Crawls West

The acquisition of knowledge is not progression from point A to point B. There in fact, is no point B. The Colossus crawls ever westward, overlapping its own footprints, making new impressions in the Earth.

Total Recall

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What if Reality (as perceived) were simply an extension of the self?”

In Asterios Polyp, David Mazzucchelli’s narrator (the theoretical adult form of the title character’s stillborn twin) begins the story proper by musing about the nature of the self. The narrative is shaped by the notion that reality as a single, knowable whole does not exist, but is alliteratively completely reliant and observed by the individual, and whichever realities are allowed to overlap through personal relationships. Similarly, the conclusion drawn from Christopher Nash’s Slaughtering the Subject, that perception is unstable because it is based on language and language itself is unstable, argues against the existence of a single, knowable reality. If we argue that narrative stems from the concrete occurrences of life, then we must submit to the notion that there is something called “life” which is itself a concrete objective reality. The problem with this (and with the notion of reality in general) exists not only in the present, but in the past and futre. It is quite easy to understand the issue of expressing a concrete future as, form our perspectives it has not occurred yet. We can’t recall or remember (or misremember) the future because “future” is an almost meaningless term encompassing everything that could happen from the instant we perceive ourselves to be in until the final instant of reality (the concept of the final instant too is in itself an unknowable abstract). The past, however, is something we believe we can know with certainty, as we have already experienced it. However, if seven individuals are present at an event, and are asked to recall it seven years later, there is very little probability of obtaining less than seven distinct memories and concrete memories of what occurred.

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Mazzucchelli’s narrator states then that “Every memory, no matter how remote its subject, takes place ‘now’, at the moment it’s called up in the mind. The more something is recalled, the more the brain has a chance to refine the original experience, because every memory is a re-creation, not a playback” Jean Boudrillard similarly states that “When the real is no longer what it used to be, nostalgia assumes its full meaning.” Both of these argue against the notion of a stable past. The past then exists as a series of events we no longer have direct access to; if our memories were a movie, they would be Total Recall (2012), not Total Recall (1990), that is they are a remake we hope will be just as good as the original, but never truly is. The problem with “life” is the same as the problem with “truth”, or “reality”, or “self”: these are distinct and unique. Since things must be agreed upon to constitute even the illusion of truth, and since it is impossible to share one’s own perception of reality wholly and completely with anyone else, then upon close examination we must conclude that these things simply do not exist in any concrete or stable form, partially because the notion of a concrete and stable form is itself an unstable abstract of language.

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One comment on “Total Recall

  1. Andrea Kaston Tange
    February 19, 2013

    I really like the way you have chosen to focus on the difficulty of a “stable past” and used that to tie together a wide range of writers and texts. This post raises difficult and philosophical questions of how we choose to quantify the past or “truth” given the problems of perception.

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2013 by in Uncategorized and tagged , , .
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