I love the old movies shown on Turner Classic Movies. Everything looks comfortably familiar in black-and-white: hairstyles, suits and dresses, wind-up Victrolas, candlestick telephones, steam locomotives, wood-paneled station wagons, window shades with pull-cords, everything. So, I was surprised when someone referred to these as “dead people movies.”
What he meant was that all of the actors—even the children—are now dead, yet watching the movie, we think of them as so alive and vital.
He has a point, and perhaps the easy availability of such media makes it harder to accept our own end. A sultry, 17-year-old Lauren Bacall still sits on Bogie’s lap, and we are surprised when we see her older, let alone hear she has died—of old age! Media has erased our sense of time. Why shouldn’t we go on forever? They do.
My own mother, who died 22 years ago, is not a dim and fading memory. I have dozens of pictures of her, beginning when she was only a baby. I have recordings of her voice. It is all stored on my computer, and I can—and do—bring any of it up in seconds. Almost no one important in my past is a dim memory. Every day, I see on my wall the high school photo of our class that forms the masthead of this blog. Mention any one of their names, and the image that pops in my mind is their appearance back then. The only thing dim is my understanding that someday I will not be around to recall them. Someday, existence for all of us will only be as a string of digits.