Column | Everything is preserved. Also in these words

My father read this newspaper for fifty years. When I was invited to talk about a column in December, he had been dead for five months. He would have loved it if I wrote in his newspaper, so I think of him with every column.

In the movie Memories by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the past is contained in the earth, in objects, sound and nature. Nothing is ever truly forgotten, everything is preserved. Some people have access to what happened before, that’s a gift. Weerasethakul is one of my favorite directors because his films always show something of the other world, which is just below or next to the visible one. That of the ghosts, of our past and our future. Sometimes we don’t know exactly what world we are in, like in Cemetery of Splendor, in which dream, life and death intertwine. The animals, plants and things have their own wisdom, know more than we do about what was and what is yet to come.

But people also know the other world. Sometimes she suddenly looks sharp. When someone close to you dies, a curtain is drawn against death. It turns out that it is not from later, but is already with you, even your own death. Later that curtain will close again, you have to do that, you have to go back into life. But you now know he’s there.

The main character in Memories suffers from insomnia. As a result, it is porous and can read the world differently. She thinks she’s going crazy, but maybe it’s just a dream. When my father had just died, I kept dreaming that we were walking along a path along a lake. We never did, he didn’t like to walk. In the dream I had to tell him he was dead. I found that difficult, because he didn’t want to die. If I had done it, it turned out that it wasn’t him but someone pretending to be him, and he disappeared or shrivelled. We performed that ritual all night long.

I still haven’t quite figured out that he’s dead. By that I don’t mean that I walk around in bewilderment or sadness. It’s more like something is going too fast. Life does not hesitate. Now that it has been almost a year, I reread his last weeks in how high the grass is in the garden, the length of the days, the color of the sky. They are all brackets in time. My memory is connected to everything that happens around me.

I am a locked room full of memories, Han Kang writes in White† She is in Warsaw, a city with her own memories, and she writes about her older sister, who died two hours after she was born. She does that through white things – salt, snow, ice, moon, rice. fog. Early in the morning the city is shrouded in fog. There is no longer a boundary between heaven and earth, buildings and clouds. Would the ghosts greet each other with words, she wonders, or just with a nod? Mist seems to obscure but actually shows another city, which is just as real. The question below is: what is the true shape of the world, and how can we know? Boundaries are less fixed than they seem.

The past is always nearby. It changes shape, like everything else – our bodies, our thoughts, our feelings, but what and who disappears can suddenly be close again. Nothing is ever truly forgotten, everything is preserved. So also in these words, in whom she writes, in whom she reads.

Eva Meijer is a writer and philosopher. She writes a column every other week.

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