|Beyond the Nothingness|
Andrea Auf dem Brinke — 1x.com
A case in point: we do not have a word for … for … hmmmm … How can I say this? A word for …
Well, that’s just the problem, isn’t it? When your language does not have a word for something, it can be vexingly difficult to pinpoint that something or even be aware that it exists ... or that it doesn’t; like trying to imagine and describe an unknown color or spot a shadow in the dark. Not just any candlestick will do.
Let me take another tack… What is the opposite of memory? When we remember something, it is in our memory, but when we do not remember, where is it? Where do forgotten memories go? I know we have the term ‘oblivion’, but it is too dire and absolute for what I am grasping at here, its connotations too apocalyptic. Oblivion is where lost time gets irretrievably lost; I am looking for something lighter, less dire.
As you may have already noticed, I love wordplay and like to invent words. I have even coined a term for this, “woiding”, inventing a word to fill a void, whether real, perceived or imagined. Recently I devoted a post to one — hydrochromology: the search for a unified field theory of the water and color cycles. And today I need a term for the opposite of memory, for the graveyard of vanished recollections, the repository of things that we have forgotten.
Spanish, like other languages, has a word for it: olvido, from the verb olvidar, to forget, with the same Latin root obliv- as 'oblivion'. In Spanish, when things slip out of my memory, they slide into el olvido. Memory can be personal, mi recuerdo, mi memoria, my recollection, my memory, or universal/impersonal/collective, el recuerdo or la memoria. But olvido is seemingly never personal, no one ever says mi olvido; when something leaves mi memoria, it goes into el olvido.
In English we tend to use the gerund “forgetting”, as when translating Neruda’s es tan corto el amor y tan largo el olvido — “so short is love, so long forgetting”. But still, forgetting is the act, whereas olvido is a place … the place where misplaced memories get shelved … memories lost, stolen or strayed. Where are you?
I have toyed with different possible word corks to plug this gap, words like oblivium (an actual Latin word), oblitium, … Or a Greek morph: letheum, from the river Lethe of forgetfulness in the underworld of Hades, where it curls around the cave of Hypnos (the personification of sleep, twin brother of Thanatos, death, both born to the goddess Nyx, night, and Erebus, darkness — what a family!). Nice, but, again, these are so absolute sounding as to border on the cataclysmic. A less melodramatic and more English and Germanic-rooted stab in the dark would be forgotdom. Maybe dismemory or unmemory, dismemberdom, … no, none of these will do.
I gave close consideration to olvimory, but that sounds a bit clunky, and I have provisionally opted for olvidium, as it seems to roll off the tongue more smoothly, just the way recollections can roll out of memory. Even so, it is, admittedly, a rather awkward way of expressing something that we all do so easily and naturally, something we are as comfortably familiar with as sleep and silence and darkness. A clumsy grafting of a familiar suffix onto an uprooted Spanish word; rather than truly ‘woiding’, what I am perhaps doing here is smuggling a term across linguistic borders, a little mangled after being snuck by the customs agents, but I hope it’s meaning is nonetheless clear. Olvidium: the opposite of memory, the capacity to forget experiences, impressions, recollections that were once in memory. And please, if you can do better or prefer another of the above, do let me know.
But why do I feel the need to press this strange invention olvidium into service here? There is a reason. While I will not be so bold as to claim there is method to my madness, I do have my reasons, which I will be happy to lay before you, my esteemed and patient readers, in a future post.
To be continued … (I hope, please remind me if I forget)