I mentioned in a previous post that I was having trouble giving away the suit I wore at my Ph.D. thesis defense. I made an analogy with how some folks might treat their wedding dress: it’s something I was never going to be able to wear again, but it represented something important it my life.
I did another round of cleaning my closets today, to make room for storing the yurt I plan to buy in April. I came back to that suit.
I recalled something a friend of mine suggested to me a couple of years ago. It was in connection with a previous round of cleaning-up I was doing at the time.
In going through some old piles of amateur magazines, I had discovered Unrealities. This gives me a couple more things to explain:
An amateur magazine, or APA ("Amateur Press Association"), is a paper precursor to blogs such as this one. Every month, every contributor writes an article on the topic of the APA, and makes copies of it. All the contributors get together and the copies of their articles are collated together. Every contributor goes home with what amounts to a privately-published magazine. They write new articles for the subsequent month, along with optional comments on previous articles. It’s a form of communication with a certain feeling of permanence about it.
In the 1980’s, I was a frequent contributor to two APAs in the New York area (I also contributed to two others, one in LA and one in Boston). One of the NY APAs was Pandemonium, about role-playing games such as D&D, Traveller, and others (including my own game, Argothald). The other was Mentat, an APA about computer programming. I wrote articles, shared what I thought was wisdom with my friends (and occasional enemies), and got into the usual useless and futile debates that now characterize much of the internet.
I saved many of those old APAs in a shelf in my apartment for years. About two years ago, to make more room, I took a look at that pile for the first time in about 15 years, before I stored them in a trunk in a closet. Perhaps I should have thrown them away, but I wanted one last chance to go through those articles and indulge in a fit of pointless nostalgia before finally getting rid of them.
As I went through the pile of Pandemoniums and Mentats, I found one other APA: Unrealities.
Unrealities was an APA that I started myself after I came back from doing my thesis experiment in Chicago; Pandemonium and Mentat had ceased publication while I was away, and I wanted to try to continue the APA experience. This APA contained articles on fantasy role-playing, written by friends in NY, friends I had made in Chicago, and others; my mother even contributed an article or two. I published Unrealities for a couple of years, then a combination of becoming too busy for APAs and a lack of contributions called a halt to the project.
In the interim between the time I ceased to publish Unrealities and my house-cleaning 15 years later, I’d completely forgotten its existence. Hours upon hours of typing, cajoling for contributions, arranging for copies, mailing out issues; all of that had faded away.
When I told this story to that friend of mine, his response was, "Eventually you would have forgotten about it anyway, along with everything else."
He’s right, of course. All memories go away after a while, no matter how precious they are.
This came to mind as I looked at that suit for the last time. One day, I’m going to forget that feeling of excitement that I had when I defended my thesis. Maybe something will remind me of it again after I’ve forgotten; maybe the memory will fade when I pass on the summerlands. But I’m going to forget.
In the meantime, that suit may keep someone warm now. It’s pointless for me to keep something that could help someone else.
The best I can do as a teacher is to share what I know and who I am. The best I can do as a human being is to share what I have.
Here’s to the memories we’ve made, the memories we share, and the memories we’re going to lose. We can never keep them; we can only be their guardians for a little while.