On forgetting (again)

To affirm the priority of “making fresh starts” and “wiping the slate clean qua self-understanding” is to reaffirm the power of renewing our potentials, accepting what was unknown to us, and of engaging our dreams. But the question was then once again raised: why wipe the slate clean? Is it possible? A petite exposée on forgetting is what followed.

Forgetting is not to obliterate what’s forgotten, nor is it to “forget it” in the traditional sense. Rather, to “forget,” as I am trying to think it, is simply to “re-lease”: to trust what transpires as we “forget our place.” It’s also to allow what’s forgotten to be remain that way and to trust that if it’s important, it will return. No thought is worth “chasing.” To allow whatever “is” to withdraw, to not grasp at what “was,” this is the forgetting I endorse, because it brings us profoundly back, again and again back, to what is. And, as the tautology would go, what is is all that there is.

We can understand this on a basic, every-day level. Without letting the ‘things’ in the world exist withdrawn, as forgotten, even the simplest day-to-day activities would be impossible. Focus would be barred, and we would lose ourselves in the morass of opinions, conflicts, temptations, distractions, etc., or we would be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of things. You can’t even read the newspaper if there is a jackhammer running outside your window. But the loudest noise comes from our own internal dialogs, dilemma, doubts, and digressions. Meditation, at it’s core, is a practice of quieting down this noise by learning how to attend to it. We sit in meditation to know how to approach that noise: to neither grab a hold of it, nor to try and push it away. As I understand it, it means something simple: forget about it, return to what’s present, and discover God/Love/You there.

“Poetic creativity” amounts to something very similar: quieting down the noise of the world and letting our focus be that of “making-silent,” both inside and out. What then speaks, if we speak, is “creation,” but not as we would dictate it. It– silence– speaks. Creation would be the excess that manifests as noise meets silence. When noise comes face-to-face with the enigma of its own emptiness, it cannot “survive.” But we can even pass beyond silence, and come even closer to language. We can begin to say something that is not just noise once we no longer lay claim to our saying it– or rather, once we recognize that what we truly share is just that… silence.

The basic nature of things is to withdraw; to forget is to accord our attitude to this basic nature (for we too are one of those things). “Forgetting” is thus a spontaneous strategy, or an attitude, whose correlate is the nature of things themselves: forgotten.

I forget the past not in order to disregard it, nor the things and people and moments that I have loved, but to affirm them while not grasping them. It’s to accord with what they are: withdrawn, forgotten. If I “forget about it,” it’s for the sake of it. I’m not pointing to a physical neglect or mental expulsion, quite the contrary. It is to attune to the proper mode of the being of things as absent, such that I assume an attitude of “detachment.” In recognizing this in the nature of things, even and especially as the nature of myself, there is peace. And, oddly, there is nothing but remembering, understanding “remembering” in its most profound sense: the act of returning to what’s present and only present. Remembering doesn’t neglect novelty, but recalls it.

It’s thus that we say that the only way to attract is to detach, and instead to be attracted. The only way to reach is to give up with trying to reach, but instead to be reached. The only way to know what really interests me is to give up on my “personal interests,” such that I get interested and become interesting myself.

This is not unlike the experience of missing someone while they are with you. To attenuate to the mode of a dying person while still alive: yes, it’s impossible, but it’s what teaches me what it is to live. Forgetting or letting-be that absence is a way to experience presence even more deeply. It is to experience presence (mine or another’s or something other’s) qua recognizing its coming-absence (which is present).


The only “reason to be” is to uncover what as of yet isn’t.

“Wiping the slate clean” is what is “impossible,” and structurally so: no matter how much I forget, something always remains. What is important is what remains at the limit of my letting-go, my releasing, my forgetting. It’s not something I anticipate, it is what comes to me from the future. It’s the we, the community of persons, ideas, and meanings, all situated in nature’s beautiful ugliness. We are their yet-unconstructed essence, confronting the silence, or the death, of this we.

What’s important (what “remains”) may very well be something I’ve engaged before. If it “remains,” this simply indicates it remains brand new. If I don’t approach what remains as it is, brand new, then I rob what’s important now because of what was important then. This means that, upon returning to edit a creation of any sort, we are not so much returning to something old than we are returning to something new. What gets said again is not really a “repetition.” We only repeat when the sense still escapes us, and thus remains important: to double is always to morph. In the present, all sense is escaping. No sense, no instance repeats.

In the middle of presence and absence, the dream of wiping the slate clean. All I can do is wake up to myself.

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1 Response to On forgetting (again)

  1. Hank Stolte says:

    Great post and great blog. It is all very refreshingly Nietzschean. Already enjoying following you, keep up the good work 🙂 – hgs

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