On a recent Thursday night, we were lucky enough to attend a "Meet the Dancer" talk at the Joffrey Ballet. To my question of how do you remember the choreography, the dancer had a simple answer. "Muscle memory. Weeks, even years later, when I hear the music, my body remembers what to do."
The next day as a member of the Art Institute of Chicago, I was fortunate enough to attend a remarkable symposium entitled, "Drawing C.1600, between Renaissance and Baroque." Hugo Chapman, of the British Museum, in explaining how attribution is achieved, noted that some curators have a visual memory of what they have seen, that allows them to draw connections between unattributed or misattributed drawings.
Muscle memory. I understand that, put on the music from my 1966 years in a drill team and some of the routine comes back unbeckoned. Visual memory. That momentary deja vu that you've seen something before.
Then there is Proustian sense memory, one he wrote about coming from a madeleine or a public toilet. Ether sticks in my sinuses from childhood operations; cloying perfumes from crushes by overdosed relatives lead me once to become physically ill when the whiff came my way in a closed bus.
Memory. A friend, the librarian, was desperate to discuss the subject after reading "The Sense of an Ending", the new book by Julian Barnes. Memory. What is true? My memory, yours? If history is the collective memory a culture, what are true in the memories of each of us when they conflict? What really happened?
What about those raised with hatred, do they carry a memory of hatred that erupts into society as seen recently by the murders and suicide of a Neo-Nazi in Arizona? Did he have hate memory? Does hatred linger in the bones, like a choreography does in the dancer's muscles?
"History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation." (Julian Barnes, "The Sense of an Ending")