the forgotten thing

IMG_0924POSTCARD #23: Delhi: There’s something cozy about having to have the lights on in the daytime; skies are quite dark, a curious colourless light. Feels nice, just pottering around in the house wearing indoor slippers; walking along the corridor to get something in the kitchen, flip flop flip flop flip flip… I arrive there and can’t remember what it was I wanted. Strange, how a thought can simply vanish like that, leaving only the context of it. Walk back down to the living room and as soon as I’m there I remember what it was, ah yes… there’s something about this action that seems to retrieve the memory. Walk back along to the kitchen, and, goodness me, I’ve forgotten again – pause for a moment… there’s no memory of it at all.

A curious reality, the forgotten thing is associated with the idea it’s a lost object and it’ll turn up later, but when it does, how will I recognize it (if I don’t know what it is)? Let it go and the thought has gone, taking with it the thinker of the thought… thoughts without a thinker [Mark Epstein]. Conscious experience is filtered through the conceptualizing process. Without that, there’s no ‘me’; there’s nothing; a state of no ‘thing-ness’. It’s not the object, it’s the space it’s in; this ‘something’ within which things seem to exist, then unexist.

Shortly after that, I remember what it is I’m looking for; the eye-drop bottle – I have a schedule of eye-drops to take because of the eye operation. Walk back to the kitchen repeating the words: eye-drop bottle, eye-drop bottle, eye-drop bottle, and there it is sitting on the counter in plain sight – how could an object like that become invisible? Back to the living room where I’m distracted by other events for a while and when I look for the eye-drop bottle later on… can’t find it, oh no (this is giving me a headache). Then it’s there, sitting in the place where it was placed, an existential presence; nature morte avec bouteille d’oeil-baisse, “Still Life With Eye-Drop Bottle”. It holds my attention now – have I taken the eye-drop already, or not yet, and feeling my eyes for moisture, trying to remember…

‘The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds.’ [R. D. Laing]


Upper image: floating small candle boats on the Ganges river, taken from last year’s visit to the Buddhist sites

31 thoughts on “the forgotten thing

  1. We have the same problem with disappearing hills… though the mist and convolutions of the landscape may have something to do with that…or maybe that is simply how we rationalise the flickering presence of the numinous?
    Either way, existence seems to be dependent on consciousness… attention… in the manifested world.

  2. This made me laugh! Is that bad?
    The thought of you having to go back twice to remember what it was you wanted… That’s so familiar! And reciting the name of the object so you don’t forget a third time. And I do that as well 🙂 Ah me, what silly creatures we are.

  3. I enjoyed this. Yes, it IS strange how a thought can just vanish like that! I enjoyed the mental picture you gave of walking out, walking in/forgetting. I so relate! This was sweetly amusing.

    • Thanks for your kind words. I started off writing about the strange emptiness that’s left after the thing you’re trying to remember has vanished – the idea of just being conscious, not of anything in particular, just consciousness itself. But I forgot what it was I was going to say, deleted quite a bit of the original draft, and posted what was left of it…

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