Halbwachs, Part Deux

Below, some direct quotations and personal thoughts from Chapter 3: The Reconstruction of the Past, Chapter 4: The Localization of Memories, and Chapter 5: The Collective Memory of the Family. Also including two great paragraphs on consolidation of memory over long periods of time. This guy was smart.

“These various modes by which memories become associated result from the various ways in which people can become associated. We can understand each memory as it occurs in individual thought only if we locate each within the thought of the corresponding group. We cannot properly understand the relative strength in the ways in which they combine within individual thought unless we connect the individual to the various groups of which he is simultaneously a member”
Halbwachs on why psych’s conception of memory as an individual’s interactive network of activation is pointless

“Each impression and each fact… leaves a lasting memory only to the extent that one has thought it over — to the extent that it is connected with the thoughts that come to us from the social milieu”

Facts are only meaningful when put in perspective within society and the person’s role(s).

In a family, each member is thought of via the memory of how they entered the family. So every time you talk or think about that person or even see their face, it’s couched in your memory of how they entered (marriage, birth, adoption).

A family memory is “oriented toward” the event, but anchored by our intimate knowledge about the people in the memory/family, in no small part because we know them so well.

Roles are key. How can you stop defining yourself as a son until you can define yourself as a husband or a father?

‘Modern’ marriage adopts a clean slate of traditions, if the two members do not have a similar traditional memory for one decision or another they create a new one. Their parents this serve as the only sources of memory for those traditions, quite differently from ancient civilizations which passed on the patriarch’s family traditions and thus had long-term continuity. This happens because the new family is and must be oriented toward the future or focused on the present as it is active and expanding. Even so, after a while, the new family usually comes to see itself as some form of continuation of the old one, even though it earlier defined itself as totally new. Especially as the adults grow old, when they can again look back and compare themselves to their parents again.

The chapters today made me think of how my memories from grad school in Victoria probably have an extra veneer of “freedom” over them too. In reality that’s coupled with loneliness but in the rose colored glasses of memory it’s just late-night pizza slices whenever I wanted, or a sudden hike up mt. Doug, or an easy walk over to the pub. I don’t often think about how all three of those memories have a tinge of loneliness to them, or how a Sunday morning by myself was always boring as hell no matter how many little activities I did. I reinterpret them with my current familial context over top rather than accurately remembering as they were at the time.

Familial logic and traditions are adapted from those of the wider community, and they serve to enable cohesion and continuity within the family and its traditions.

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