We recently moved and one of the heavier boxes the removalist had to lift was a large box of CDs. Remember those kids? Shiny round discs that we used to buy for $30 each, and download to our ears. The perceived value of these discs increased if they happened to have a secret track – what a treat! They lost that value however if it was a heavy metal album, and the secret track was three minutes after the end of the last “un-secret” track and the secret-surprise scared the crap out of you.
Just after I unpacked the really important stuff (coffee machine, TV, DVD player and wireless router, in that order) I thought I should import ALL of my CDs. That way I could have them forever and secondly I could postpone unpacking the boring stuff like towels, office stuff and kitchenware. After the first stack of ten I began to regret my iTunes mission.
I had to blow dust of most of them. One in particular was looking quite antiquated: Dance 2000. I used to drive around Tamworth in my red Nissan Pulsar dropping these fat beats out the window, often on my way to McDonald’s before driving up and down the main street, in lieu of something actually fun to do. I was very cool. Sure, I didn’t have “actual” sub-woofers but I had Dance 2000 and don’t you forget it. Tamworth is the country music capital of Australia, so this was an act of defiance. I was saying to the world “doof doof doof – I’m better than you.”
Deeper into the box was some great old music and I’ve really enjoyed listening to much of it lately. Music is almost as powerful as scent in bringing back memories. It’s amazing what’s locked away in your brain that you can’t quite reach without the right inroad. I wonder if that’s why our culture is a bit obsessed with recording their entire lives. When we are at a concert some of us watch through our iPhone like a slightly delayed telecast, or when we say something funny at dinner we leave the conversation and tweet it, then we can relax knowing that it’s on the inter-webs forever. I can’t decide if it’s better to be fully immersed in any given moment or to be recording it for later. Would a memory be naturally stronger if we experienced it fully at the time? or does it fade so much that it’s better to half-experience the event at the time but have a version of it for later on video, photo or at the very least scribed in 140 characters or less.
Even recording, digitizing and storing our lives isn’t a safe bet. A few months ago I was backing up one last file to my external drive. I had an awesome setup for it – I had it sitting up next to the TV as a media drive then I’d plug it into my laptop whilst sitting on my coffee table. Sure I had a desk upstairs but sitting on my coffee table in front of my TV seemed like a much better idea, as it was both uncomfortable and impractical. I made the fatal error of crossing my legs and the dangling USB cord snagged on my foot and the drive made a heartbreaking smack against the hardwood floor. If it had finished copying the file it might have been all right, but I suspect that the hard drive pin is now firmly lodged in the middle of all my photographs, videos, essays and assorted Word documents pre-2009. It’s was the only copy I had. I never looked at them anymore but I felt a definite sense of loss. I felt like I’d lost all those little extra inroads that could take me straight back to my college days and even further into the past like a little mental-time-machine.
I could recover the lost data on my drive for around a thousand dollars but having the drive rendered useless gave me a chance to think about the real value of memories. They are events recorded as a snapshot, whether it be a memory in the form of a photo or video or just a thought in our mind, they are only a marker, a snippet. I’ve lived every single one of them in its entirety. With all of its emotions, ideas, sights and smells. Far from these experiences having disappeared in one horrific moment of digital terror, they are all somehow a part of who I am today.
It’s good fun to remember the past every now and then, but what is even better than being able to reminisce, is paying attention to right now. Something I admit to have an eternal struggle with.
Either that or I could just backup to a cloud server. I might look into that as well.
PETE CAMPBELL is a Creative: Writer/Producer based from Australia, now based in LA. He has worked on projects for McDonalds, So You Think You Can Dance, Nikon, TEN, The Waratahs, Royal Bank of Scotland, Sydney Opera House, Bankwest, HP, Gumtree, Kijiji Taiwan and a stack more.