Prato and memories

September 10, 2006

My connection here has more to do with serendipity than anything else. I’m travelling with a girls school choir from Christchurch, and we are in Florence at the same time as the get together occurs. And as one who is fatigued by formal paper driven conferences, the opportunity to attend an event initially refered to as a ‘muck about’ was too good to miss.

I’m involved in a range of learning communities. Putting aside at this stage nuances of meaning, these these usually have an online component (lists, corperate blog, course management system, virtual community space etc) – some are part of bounded courses (with the dreaded assessment) some are professional development oriented (with both vonenteers and conscripts) and some are just for fun (everybody choosing to be there) and some are a bounded professional affiliation. (Pay your fees and you are in).

The just for fun ones include several informal networky things – almost like mutual mentoring, support and sounding boards.

Here is a well known quote:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it – George Santayana.

I could build a lot on this idea: memory is a mixed blessing. There has been a bit about this in our local paper in the coverage of the escape of Natascha Kampusch.

There is an expiry date of first hand memories. I am interested to note how often now we are talking to my sons about events I took for granted. I remember with chagrin how much passed from consciousness with the death of my grandfather.

In a slightly whimsical mood I quote this little extract on someone’s thoughts on Nietzsche:


In the second of his untimely meditations, Nietzsche suggests
     that a cow lives without boredom and pain, because it does not
     remember.[1] Because it has no past, the cow is happy. But the
     animal cannot confirm its happiness precisely because it does
     not have the power to recall its previous state. It lives
     unmindful of the past, which, as it gives happiness, also takes
     it away from the animal. Nietzsche uses this example to point to
     the liberating power of what he terms "active forgetting," a
     willfull abandonment of the past that is beyond the capacities
     of the cow:

In the case of the smallest or of the greatest happiness...
          it is always the same thing that makes happiness happiness:
          the ability to forget or, expressed in more scholarly
          fashion, the capacity to feel unhistorically during its
          duration. (UD 62)

Nietzsche calls for an abandonment of the past because, as he
     says, it "returns as a ghost and disturbs the peace of a later
     moment" (UD 61). Too much past precludes action, happiness, and
     further development. As an antidote to this predicament he
     suggests a critical discourse on the past that would be
     attentive to the needs of the present and able to distinguish
     between what in the past is advantageous and what is
     disadvantageous for life. Thus "active" forgetting is selective
     remembering, the recognition that not all past forms of
     knowledge and not all experiences are beneficial for present and
     future life.

Then there is different memories of the same event, and different interpretations of the same fact. People can merely brood.

That’s the other side. As well there is the question: How can communities of any kind manage their thoughts, their experieinces, stories and findings? Especially now in a web 2.0 environment?

How can we avoid overload? Filter out irrelevant stuff? Not filter out stuff we should engage with but may not want to? (Think professional development for us out of our comfort zones) Share key ideas that may challenge the status quo and still keep relationships intact? Assist with the boundaries of our community thinking? Manage the corperate vs the individual? Incorperate newcomers without mere indoctrination . . .

We shall see. I’m coming to Prato relatively inexperieinced at this sort of event, knowledge construction, open space etc etc, and basically because I can, circumstances being what they are. And also because I have met online, read about, read the blogs of, talked by teleconference to some of these people, and look forward to a chance to meet in person. – Derek

4 Responses to “Prato and memories”

  1. btrayner Says:

    Hi Derek .. nice quotes by Nietzche.

    They made me remember something my mum told me when I was a kid about goldfish.

    She said that they didn’t mind circling a goldfish bowl because they had no memory. Each round is always a first time!

    To this day I can’t look at a fish in goldfish bowl without getting into some philosophical thinking about remembering and forgetting!

  2. Cmerl Says:

    Thank you for the quotes, Derek. It seems that in theory we might know that “too much past precludes action, happiness, and further development”, like we know so many other things in theory. But what about putting theory into practice? It seems that this is the hard part, isn’t it?

  3. derekcx Says:

    Christina, yes. But it’s not as hard as when we do nothing. 🙂

  4. Andy Says:

    People talk about the memory of a goldfish lasting only a few seconds and yet if you feed them in the same part of a pond regularly, they do remember where they need to be. How do we know what a cow feels about boredom any better than we can imagine the consciousness of a swarm of nanobots?

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