From their very origin, the imagination colors the paintings it will want to see again. – Gaston Bachelard
So I’m sure someone is asking him/herself, “So what? We remember experiences more easily and vividly when they seem unique – why is that important?”
The reason vivid images are important is the way they come to contain us. Like I said in my last blog: It’s a two-for-one event. But the part that really stays with us (no pun intended) is the part that is all about us. To make this point clearer, let’s look at the distinction between memory (as fact) and reverie (as imagination).
I’m drawing my material here from Gaston Bachelard, a mid-20th century French philosopher. (See Wikipedia link ). Bachelard, in his study of poetics, was very interested in waking reverie, that dream-like state when you go “off-task” and free-float inside an idea or topic. Bachelard builds a distinction between memory and reverie that allows him to look at the “charge” inside an image as being separate from any historical recollection (or fact). To quote from his book, The Poetics of Reverie,
The soul and the mind do not have the same memory … It is only when the soul and the mind are united in a reverie … that we benefit from the union of imagination and memory … The remembered past is not simply a past of perception. Since one is remembering, the past is already being designated in a reverie as an image value. From their very origin, the imagination colors the paintings it will want to see again. … In order to relive the values of the past, one must dream, must accept the great dilation of the psyche known as reverie … Then Memory and Imagination rival each other in giving us back the images which pertain to our lives.
Excuse the “soul” and “mind” references. I know they are “uncontexted” and are likely to be confusing.
The point here is that “image value” is distinct from “a fact.” Once image value harnesses imagination, only then can imagination and memory work together to reawaken the past. Simply put, the imagination holds a different memory from that of the mind’s mental memory. Facts can be evoked, but only when the imagination “calls up” the values in play. Reverie is the act of imagination that calls up the imagery associated with something important. Whether it happens to be a “fact” or not – well that is entirely secondary.
You might look at it this way: If “perceiving” is different from “judging,” then imagination and ‘image value’ are more associated with an unstructured and spontaneous way of holding information than are memory and ‘facts,’ which close off and structure our perception. The real question is whether ‘closed off’ judgments really hold anything without the image value? What do you think?
I opened this post with a quotation – one that was embedded within the longer quote referenced above. This quote emphasizes my main point: imagination is the faculty that does “the painting.” It is the faculty that precedes our remembrance of facts. What is not clear — yet — is the inherent faithfulness of our imagination to the imagery which it “desires” to paint. Image value is completely faithful to the images which “bring us to life,” but just how faithful it is to the facts associated with our memory?
I’ll talk about that in the next post. Thanks for listening.