Why Doesn’t Remembering Sadness Make Me Sad?

Augustine, Confessions X. 21-22

“The same memory holds my mind’s affections too—not in that manner in which the mind has them when it is experiencing them, but in a very different manner, just as the power of memory conducts itself. For I remember that I was once happy even when I am not happy; and I may recall that I was previously said without being said; I can recollect that I once feared something without fear and also remember ancient desire without feeling desire. But sometimes it is the opposite: I remember previous sadness when I am happy and happiness when I am sad.

This fact is not remarkable for the body: the soul is a different thing from the body. So if I take pleasure in remembering prior pain, this is not surprising. Here, honestly, the mind may also be like memory itself. For when we command that something be recalled, we say “look, keep that in mind.” And when we forget, we said “it’s not in my mind” and “it slipped from my mind”, calling memory itself our mind—although were this the case, why is it that when I recall my past sadness while I am happy, my soul keeps its happiness and my memory its sadness and my mind is happy because of the happiness within it even though the memory which is within it is sad?

Perhaps this is because the memory isn’t integral to the mind? Who could say this? It is not unlikely that the memory is something like the mind’s stomach and happiness and sadness are like its sweet or bitter food. When they are contained within memory, they are unable to be tasted like food taken into the stomach. It is absurd to think that this things are comparable—but still, they are not completely different.”

 

  1. (21) Affectiones quoque animi mei eadem memoria continet, non illo modo quo eas habet ipse animus cum patitur eas, sed alio multum diverso, sicut sese habet vis memoriae. nam et laetatum me fuisse reminiscor non laetus, et tristitiam meam praeteritam recordor non tristis, et me aliquando timuisse recolo sine timore et pristinae cupiditatis sine cupiditate sum memor. aliquando et e contrario tristitiam meam transactam laetus reminiscor et tristis laetitiam. quod mirandum non est de corpore: aliud enim animus, aliud corpus. itaque si praeteritum dolorem corporis gaudens memini, non ita mirum est. hic vero, cum animus sit etiam ipsa memoria—nam et cum mandamus aliquid ut memoriter habeatur, dicimus, “vide ut illud in animo habeas,” et cum obliviscimur, dicimus, “non fuit in animo” et “elapsum est animo,” ipsam memoriam vocantes animum—cum ergo ita sit, quid est hoc, quod cum tristitiam meam praeteritam laetus memini, animus habet laetitiam et memoria tristitiam laetusque est animus ex eo quod inest ei laetitia, memoria vero ex eo quod inest ei tristitia tristis non est? num forte non pertinet ad animum? quis hoc dixerit? nimirum ergo memoria quasi venter est animi, laetitia vero atque tristitia quasi cibus dulcis et amarus: cum memoriae commendantur, quasi traiecta in ventrem recondi illic possunt, sapere non possunt. ridiculum est haec illis similia putare, nec tamen sunt omni modo dissimilia.
  2. Image result for St. Augustine Medieval

This Unforgetting Stone (Another Epitaph)

Iscr. di Cos (Fun.) EF 518  From Kos, 2nd/1st Century BCE

“Previously Homeric grooves [arrows] were sounding out
The master-loving habit of Eumaios on golden tablets,
But now this stone, repeating the unforgetting word,
Will sing your wise wit even into Hades, Inakhos.

Philoskos, who reveres your home, will always increase
The fine gifts and honor you both among the living and the dead—
Along with your wife who honors your son who is weeping,
A young child who draws deep from the spring of her breasts.

O, inescapable Hades, why do you hoard this kind of blessing,
Taking away the famous son of Kleumakhis?”

1 π̣ρὶν μ̣ὲν Ὁμήρειο[ι γλυφί]δες φιλ[οδέσποτ]ο̣ν̣ ἦ̣θ̣[ο]ς
Εὐμαίου χρ̣υσέαις̣ ἔ̣κλαγον ἐν σ̣ε̣λίσ̣ι̣ν̣·
σεῦ δὲ καὶ εἰν Ἀΐδαο σαόφρονα μῆτιν ἀείσει
Ἴν̣αχ̣’ ἀείμνηστον γ̣ρ̣άμ̣μ̣α λαλεῦσ̣α̣ πέ̣τρ̣η·
5 καί σε πρὸς εὐσεβέ̣ων δ̣όμ̣ον ἄξ̣ε̣ται ἐσθλὰ Φ̣ιλίσκος̣
δῶρα καὶ ἐν ζῳοῖς κἂμ φθιμένοισι τίνων·
σήν τ̣’ ἄλοχ̣ον κλείουντ’ αὐτόν σοι παῖδα τίο̣υσαν
π̣ηγῆς ἧς μασ̣τ̣ῶν ε̣ἴ̣λ̣κυ̣σ̣ε νηπίαχο̣ς̣.
[ὦ] δυσάλικτ’ Ἀΐδα, τὶ τὸ τηλίκον ἔσχ̣ες ὄνειαρ̣,
10 κλεινὸν Κλευμαχίδο̣ς̣ κοῦρον ἀειρ̣ά̣μενο̣ς̣;

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“What is Written Here is Brief”: Some Roman Memorials for Memorial Day

Some Archaic Latin Inscriptions from the Loeb Classical Library (the LCL numbers are first, translations are mine). There are earlier poetic epitaphs on this site as well, even legendary ones

Epitaphs 14 [CIL 1861]

“Here lies the sweet clown and slave of Clulius
Protogenes, who created many moments of happiness for people with his joking”

Protogenes Cloul[i] | suavis heicei situst | mimus
plouruma que | fecit populo soueis | gaudia nuges.

15 [CIL 1202]

“This monument was erected for Marcus Caecilius
We give you thanks, Friend, since you stopped by this home.
May you have good fortune and be well. Sleep without worry.”

Hoc est factum monumentum | Maarco Caicilio. |
Hospes, gratum est quom apud | meas restitistei seedes. |
Bene rem geras et valeas, | dormias sine qura.

18 [CIL 1211]

“Friend, what is written here is brief—stop and read it all.
This is the unattractive tomb of an attractive woman.
Her parents named her Claudia
She loved her own husband with her whole heart.
She had two sons and leaves one of them
On the earth, but placed the other beneath it.
[She was] charming in conversation; but proper in behavior.
She safeguarded her house. She made wool. I have said it all. Go.”

Hospes, quod deico paullum est; asta ac pellege.
Heic est sepulcrum hau pulcrum pulcrai feminae.
Nomen parentes nominarunt Claudiam.
Suom mareitom corde deilexit souo.
Gnatos duos creavit, horunc alterum
in terra linquit, alium sub terra locat.
Sermone lepido, tum autem incessu commodo.
Domum servavit, lanam fecit. Dixi. Abei.

39 [CIL 1219]

“Here are the bones of Pompeia the first daughter
Fortune promises a lot to many but makes a guarantee for no one.
Live for all days and all hours. For nothing is yours wholly.
Salvius and Heros donated this.”

Primae | Pompeiae | ossua heic.|
Fortuna spondet | multis, praestat nemini;
vive in dies | et horas, nam proprium est nihil. |
Salvius et Heros dant.

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Little By Little: Memory and Education

Plutarch, The Education of Children (Moralia 9)

It is especially important to train and practice children’s memory:  memory is the warehouse of learning. This is why we used to mythologize Memory as the mother of the Muses, making it clear through allegory that nothing creates and nourishes the way memory does. This should be trained in both cases, whether children have a good memory from the beginning or are naturally forgetful. For we may strengthen the inborn ability and supplement the deficiency. The first group will be better than others; but the second will be better than themselves. This is why the Hesiodic line rings true: “If you add a little by little, and you keep doing it, soon you can have something great.”

Parents should also not forget that a skill of memory contributes its great worth not only to education but to life’s actions in general. For the memory of past events becomes an example of good planning for future actions.”

Πάντων δὲ μάλιστα τὴν μνήμην τῶν παίδων ἀσκεῖν καὶ συνεθίζειν· αὕτη γὰρ ὥσπερ τῆς παιδείας ἐστὶ ταμιεῖον, καὶ διὰ τοῦτο μητέρα τῶν Μουσῶν ἐμυθολόγησαν εἶναι τὴν Μνημοσύνην, αἰνιττόμενοι καὶ παραδηλοῦντες ὅτι οὕτως οὐδὲν γεννᾶν καὶ τρέφειν ὡς ἡ μνήμη πέφυκε. καὶ τοίνυν ταύτην κατ᾿ ἀμφότερ᾿ ἐστὶν ἀσκητέον, εἴτ᾿ ἐκ φύσεως μνήμονες εἶεν οἱ παῖδες, εἴτε καὶ τοὐναντίον ἐπιλήσμονες. τὴν γὰρ πλεονεξίαν τῆς φύσεως ἐπιρρώσομεν, τὴν δ᾿ ἔλλειψιν ἀναπληρώσομεν· καὶ οἱ μὲν τῶν ἄλλων ἔσονται βελτίους, οἱ δ᾿ ἑαυτῶν. τὸ γὰρ Ἡσιόδειον καλῶς εἴρηται

εἰ γάρ κεν καὶ σμικρὸν ἐπὶ σμικρῷ καταθεῖο
καὶ θαμὰ τοῦτ᾿ ἔρδοις, τάχα κεν μέγα καὶ τὸ
γένοιτο.

μὴ λανθανέτω τοίνυν μηδὲ τοῦτο τοὺς πατέρας, ὅτι τὸ μνημονικὸν τῆς μαθήσεως μέρος οὐ μόνον πρὸς τὴν παιδείαν ἀλλὰ καὶ πρὸς τὰς τοῦ βίου πράξεις οὐκ ἐλαχίστην συμβάλλεται μοῖραν. ἡ γὰρ τῶν γεγενημένων πράξεων μνήμη τῆς περὶ τῶν μελλόντων εὐβουλίας γίγνεται παράδειγμα.

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We Need An Art of Forgetting

Cicero De Finibus 2 104-5

“What kind of sense, then, is there to the idea that a wise person should not let go of good memories but forget bad ones? First, is what we remember under our control? Themistocles, it is said, when Simonides promised to teach him the art of memory, responded, “I’d prefer learning to forget. For I remember things I wish I didn’t and I can’t forget the things I want to.” [Epicurus] was a man of great insight, but the fact us that a philosopher who prohibits remembering asks too much of us.”

Iam illud quale tandem est, bona praeterita non effluere sapienti, mala meminisse non oportere? Primum in nostrane est potestate quid meminerimus? Themistocles quidem, cum ei Simonides an quis alius artem memoriae polliceretur, ‘Oblivionis,’ inquit, ‘mallem; nam memini etiam quae nolo, oblivisci non possum quae volo.’ Magno hic ingenio; sed res se tamen sic habet ut nimis imperiosi philosophi sit vetare meminisse.

Make A Seating Plan for Your Holiday Feast, Unless Simonides is Coming…

Ancient memory techniques go back to oratorical training in theory, but in practice probably much further back in human history. Philostratus records the reputation of Dionysius of Miletus and his “memory-men”. But one of the most easily abused and likely misunderstood method from the ancient world is the “memory palace” (or “method of loci“), made famous by Cicero, but credited to the lyric poet Simonides.

Cicero De Oratore 2.352–355 (Full Latin text on the Scaife Viewer)

“But, so I may return to the matter”, he said, “I am not as smart as Themistocles was as to prefer the art of forgetting to the art of memory. And So I am thankful to that Simonides of Ceos who, as they say, first produced an art of memory. For they say that when Simonides was dining at the home of a wealthy aristocrate named Scopas in Thessaly and had performed that song which he wrote in his honor—in which there were many segments composed for Castor and Pollux elaborated in the way of poets. Then Scopas told him cruelly that he would pay him half as much as he had promised he would give for the song; if it seemed right to him, he could ask Tyndareus’ sons for the other half since he had praised them equally.

A little while later, as they tell the tale, it was announced that Simonides should go outside—there were two young men at the door who had been calling him insistently. He rose, exited, and sAW no one. Meanwhile, in the same space of time, the ceiling under which Scopas was having his feast collapsed: the man was crushed by the ruins and died with his relatives. When people wanted to bury them they could not recognize who was where because they were crushed. Simonides is said to have shown the place in which each man died from his memory for their individual burials.

From this experience, Simonides is said to have learned that it is order most of all that brings light to memory. And thus those who wish to practice this aspect of the skill must select specific places and shape in their mind the matters they wish to hold in their memory and locate these facts in those places. It will so turn out that the order of the places will safeguard the order of the matters, the reflections of the facts will remind of the facts themselves, and we may use the places like wax and the ideas like letters written upon it.”

Sed, ut ad rem redeam, non sum tanto ego, inquit, ingenio quanto Themistocles fuit, ut oblivionis artem quam memoriae malim; gratiamque habeo Simonidi illi Cio quem primum ferunt artem memoriae protulisse.  Dicunt enim cum cenaret Crannone in Thessalia Simonides apud Scopam fortunatum hominem et nobilem cecinissetque id carmen quod in eum scripsisset, in quo multa ornandi causa poetarum more in Castorem scripta et Pollucem fuissent, nimis illum sordide Simonidi dixisse se dimidium eius ei quod pactus esset pro illo carmine daturum: reliquum a suis Tyndaridis quos aeque laudasset peteret si ei videretur. Paulo post esse ferunt nuntiatum Simonidi ut prodiret: iuvenes stare ad ianuam duos quosdam qui eum magnopere evocarent; surrexisse illum, prodisse, vidisse neminem; hoc interim spatio conclave illud ubi epularetur Scopas concidisse; ea ruina ipsum cum cognatis oppressum suis interiisse; quos cum humare vellent sui neque possent obtritos internoscere ullo modo, Simonides dicitur ex eo quod meminisset quo eorum loco quisque cubuisset demonstrator uniuscuiusque sepeliendi fuisse; hac tum re admonitus invenisse fertur ordinem esse maxime qui memoriae lumen afferret. Itaque eis qui hanc partem ingeni exercerent locos esse capiendos et ea quae memoria tenere vellent effingenda animo atque in eis locis collocanda: sic fore ut ordinem rerum locorum ordo conservaret, res autem ipsas rerum effigies notaret, atque ut locis pro cera, simulacris pro litteris uteremur.

thanks to S. Raudnitz for reminding me of this passage too!

Image result for ancient greek memory palace medieval giulio camillo
This stuff is still popular: The Memory Theater of Guilio Camillo

Dinners: Invitations and Guest-Lists for the Feasts

P. Oxy. 1485.

“The Exegete would love for you to dine today, the ninth day, at the temple of Demeter at the seventh hour”

Ἐρωτᾷ σαι διπν[ῆ-]σαι ὁ ἐξηγητὴ[ς] ἐν τῷ Δημητρίῳ σήμερον ἥτις ἐσ-τὶν θ ἀπὸ ὥρ(ας) ζ.

Here’ the beginning of Plutarch’s The Dinner of the Seven Wise Men to make you reconsider your guest-list for thanksgiving.

Moralia 146: Dinner of the Seven Wise Men (Full text on LacusCurtius)

“Nikarkhos, I guess that as time passes by it will impose a great darkness over events and total obscurity if even false accounts of what has just happened have belief. For, there was not a dinner of only seven men as you have heard, but there were more than twice as many—among whom I was present, since I was Periander’s friend thanks to my profession and a guest-friend of Thales who stayed at my home after Periander told him to.

Whoever it was who informed you of the events did not recall the speeches correctly—it is likely he was not one of the guests. But since I have a lot of free time and old age is too uncertain a thing to justify putting off the tale, I will tell you the entire story from the beginning which you are so eager to hear.”

Ἦ που προϊὼν ὁ χρόνος, ὦ Νίκαρχε, πολὺ σκότος ἐπάξει τοῖς πράγμασι καὶ πᾶσαν ἀσάφειαν, εἰ νῦν ἐπὶ προσφάτοις οὕτω καὶ νεαροῖς λόγοι ψευδεῖς συντεθέντες ἔχουσι πίστιν. οὔτε γὰρ μόνων, ὡς ὑμεῖς ἀκηκόατε, τῶν ἑπτὰ γέγονε τὸ συμπόσιον, ἀλλὰ πλειόνων ἢ δὶς τοσούτων (ἐν οἷς καὶ αὐτὸς ἤμην, συνήθης μὲν ὢν Περιάνδρῳ διὰ τὴν τέχνην, ξένος δὲ Θάλεω· παρ᾿ ἐμοὶ γὰρ κατέλυσεν ὁ ἀνὴρ Περιάνδρου κελεύσαντος), οὔτε τοὺς λόγους ὀρθῶς ἀπεμνημόνευσεν ὅστις ἦν ὑμῖν ὁ διηγούμενος· ἦν δ᾿ ὡς ἔοικεν οὐδεὶς τῶν παραγεγονότων. ἀλλ᾿ ἐπεὶ σχολή τε πάρεστι πολλὴ καὶ τὸ γῆρας οὐκ ἀξιόπιστον ἐγγυήσασθαι τὴν ἀναβολὴν τοῦ λόγου, προθυμουμένοις ὑμῖν ἀπ᾿ ἀρχῆς ἅπαντα διηγήσομαι.

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We Need An Art of Forgetting

Cicero De Finibus 2 104-5

“What kind of sense, then, is there to the idea that a wise person should not let go of good memories but forget bad ones? First, is what we remember under our control? Themistocles, it is said, when Simonides promised to teach him the art of memory, responded, “I’d prefer learning to forget. For I remember things I wish I didn’t and I can’t forget the things I want to.” [Epicurus] was a man of great insight, but the fact us that a philosopher who prohibits remembering asks too much of us.”

Iam illud quale tandem est, bona praeterita non effluere sapienti, mala meminisse non oportere? Primum in nostrane est potestate quid meminerimus? Themistocles quidem, cum ei Simonides an quis alius artem memoriae polliceretur, ‘Oblivionis,’ inquit, ‘mallem; nam memini etiam quae nolo, oblivisci non possum quae volo.’ Magno hic ingenio; sed res se tamen sic habet ut nimis imperiosi philosophi sit vetare meminisse.

“What is Written Here is Brief”: Some Roman Memorials for Memorial Day

Some Archaic Latin Inscriptions from the Loeb Classical Library (the LCL numbers are first, translations are mine). There are earlier poetic epitaphs on this site as well, even legendary ones

Epitaphs 14 [CIL 1861]

“Here lies the sweet clown and slave of Clulius
Protogenes, who created many moments of happiness for people with his joking”

Protogenes Cloul[i] | suavis heicei situst | mimus
plouruma que | fecit populo soueis | gaudia nuges.

15 [CIL 1202]

“This monument was erected for Marcus Caecilius
We give you thanks, Friend, since you stopped by this home.
May you have good fortune and be well. Sleep without worry.”

Hoc est factum monumentum | Maarco Caicilio. |
Hospes, gratum est quom apud | meas restitistei seedes. |
Bene rem geras et valeas, | dormias sine qura.

18 [CIL 1211]

“Friend, what is written here is brief—stop and read it all.
This is the unattractive tomb of an attractive woman.
Her parents named her Claudia
She loved her own husband with her whole heart.
She had two sons and leaves one of them
On the earth, but placed the other beneath it.
[She was] charming in conversation; but proper in behavior.
She safeguarded her house. She made wool. I have said it all. Go.”

Hospes, quod deico paullum est; asta ac pellege.
Heic est sepulcrum hau pulcrum pulcrai feminae.
Nomen parentes nominarunt Claudiam.
Suom mareitom corde deilexit souo.
Gnatos duos creavit, horunc alterum
in terra linquit, alium sub terra locat.
Sermone lepido, tum autem incessu commodo.
Domum servavit, lanam fecit. Dixi. Abei.

39 [CIL 1219]

“Here are the bones of Pompeia the first daughter
Fortune promises a lot to many but makes a guarantee for no one.
Live for all days and all hours. For nothing is yours wholly.
Salvius and Heros donated this.”

Primae | Pompeiae | ossua heic.|
Fortuna spondet | multis, praestat nemini;
vive in dies | et horas, nam proprium est nihil. |
Salvius et Heros dant.

Image result for ancient roman epitaph

Divine Truth and Mortal Belief

Parmenides, Fr. D4

“Greetings! No evil fate sent you to journey
By this road—for indeed it is far off from mortal paths—
But it was Law and Justice. You need to learn everything:
Both the immovable heart of persuasive Truth
And the beliefs of mortals which have no true faith.
But you should also learn these things too: how beliefs
Must be credible because they pervade all things.”

χαῖρ’, ἐπεὶ οὔτι σε μοῖρα κακὴ προὔπεμπε νέεσθαι
τήνδ’ ὁδόν (ἦ γὰρ ἀπ’ ἀνθρώπων ἐκτὸς πάτου ἐστίν),
ἀλλὰ Θέμις τε Δίκη τε. χρεὼ δέ σε πάντα πυθέσθαι
ἠμὲν Ἀληθείης εὐπειθέος ἀτρεμὲς ἦτορ
ἠδὲ βροτῶν δόξας, ταῖς οὐκ ἔνι πίστις ἀληθής.
ἀλλ’ ἔμπης καὶ ταῦτα μαθήσεαι, ὡς τὰ δοκοῦντα
χρῆν δοκίμως εἶναι διὰ παντὸς πάντα *περῶντα.

*περῶντα also appears as περ ὄντα. This variant reading might mean something like “even when they are completely true”.

This passage with its reference to the isolated path and the distinction between mortal belief and immortal truth reminds me of Hesiod:

Theogony 26-28

“Rustic shepherds, wretched reproaches, nothing but bellies,
We know how to say many lies similar to the truth
And we know how to speak the truth when we want to.”

“ποιμένες ἄγραυλοι, κάκ’ ἐλέγχεα, γαστέρες οἶον,
ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ’ εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι.”

Odyssey 19.203

“He was like someone speaking many lies similar to the truth

ἴσκε ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγων ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα·

Elsewhere on this blog and in forthcoming work I explore this as the difference between coherence and correspondence in memory. Here it seems clearly to be on the surface a difference between mortal and divine ways of seeing. These domains do not cancel each other out….

Busto di Parmenide.jpg
Bust of Parmenides from Wikimedia Commons