Experience is the slight pang you feel in your elbow in Autumn.
It’s a memory of pain. All pain ends in one single boiler, a disposal of lost hopes, two spoonfuls of forgotten dreams, a litre of offense, some neglect, and a dressing of absurdities. Pain present and pain past are both perhaps present in pain future. And pain future contained in pain past.**
And if a twinge present, a little, unimportant twinge, little more than a pinch, is dipped into that same cauldron, and if that twinge present resembles a twinge past, you can witness to the genesis of chaos. Things lose contours, emotions mingle in a perfect anarchy. And thus a trifle can cost a million, destroy paradise, set everything on fire. Because that minor trifle is a spark added to the whooping blaze that’s been burning somewhere all the time.
Experience is a generalization and its associations are mechanical in nature. It puts together all things that resemble each other, even just outwardly. Memory flattens all forms but leaves them colours and tactile qualities and smells. Mixing people and circumstances and factors causes you to react to things the way you’ve learned is best, and if you’re unable to discriminate, to name, to trace the exact outline of something and lay it back where it belongs, your own means of protection can twist against you. So you meet somebody and suddenly wish to harm him if he’s wearing a white sweater and is cooking mussels and is speaking of Christmas and you don’t know why. The way a woman’s mouth turns when she smiles gives you a pain in the neck. You laugh frantically when somebody uses a certain keyword as if you were in “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion”. A certain stink takes you back to your first day of school.
But then, not everybody is the same. What happens once mustn’t happen all the time. “You live, you learn”, but at times it’s necessary to forget.
**T.S. Eliot, ‘Four Quartets’ (1 – Burnt Norton): “Time present and time past/Are both perhaps present in time future,/And time future contained in time past”.