The Roots Of Memory


Robert Pogue Harrison contemplates the loss of forests:

In some ways it's analogous to that famous scene in Proust's Remembrance of Things Past, where he wants to recollect this particular period of his childhood, but he can't do anything with his voluntary memory. Then, by chance, he goes to tea where he has a Madeleine, this little French pastry, and the taste and flavor of the Madeleine liberates his involuntary memory, and the whole period of his childhood rushes back to his mind. It took this thing, this pastry, to trigger the memory, and that tells me that memory is not something in our psyches, in some invisible space inside our heads.

Our cultural memory is embodied in things, in buildings, in landscapes, in statutes and cemeteries and all sorts of places, and the forest is a place that holds very deep memories for the human psyche. If we lose those forests, we're going to lose access to that memory. Ecologists who insist only on the material or biological losses that take place when we lose forests aren't doing justice to the idea that there's an equally important cultural archive at stake. 

(Image by David Goehring)