From the intro to Michael Baxandall’s short but striking exploration of his own memory, Episodes:
Inviting characteristics of the dune then include: (1) it is, in a finite but extended life-span, continuous but changing; (2) this transitive identity lies in a unitary structure (the anatomy of large-grained plinth, angled upper-crusted layers, soft zones and hard zones); (3) in this structure is deposited an internalized selective record of its own history, the lamination–though this is not what we would call ‘memory’; (4) the laminated structure is also an armature of its present stability, its firmness being one condition of the way it will stand and survive and behave now; (5) the dune is responsive to the presence and forms of its fellows but (6) also acts reflexively on itself, redirecting with its own form the shaping agent, the wind.
I have great, gaping holes of in my memory–more than most people–from specific periods in my life. I imagine that the experiences I can’t remember do still affect the way I “stand and survive and behave.” They must help to give shape to the whole, like soft zones and hard zones, structuring from beneath.
I find this analogy both comforting and ominous.