the characters of mad men gather together to watch the tragic breaking news of the assassination of JFK. they were not at the scene, but they will always remember the mediation of the event. they are not even real people. this is a mediation of the mediation of the event, but we all understand, from our own personal experiences or passed-down stories, that this is one earth-shattering event that embedded itself in the collective memories of everyone alive at the time.

imagery and ideas transcend time because of history and memory, which are two separate things. before delving into my interpretation of these two notions, i will look at the OED definition for them:

history, n. : a continuous, systematic narrative of past events as relating to a particular people, country, period, person, etc. usually written as a chronological account; chronicle.

memory, n. : the mental capacity of faculty of retaining and retrieving facts, events, impressions, etc. or of recalling or recognizing previous experiences.

history is a scientific discipline that is concerned with documenting facts as they happen, in chronological order. history, however, is not an exact science; there is no robot out there objectively recording all of the globe’s affairs. it is documented by humans, whose recordings of events is heavily influenced by places, events, movements, and certain people. a history that is composed by one culture is particular to that culture, and would be seen by a different point of view if someone else wrote it. every individual constructs his own history over the course of his lifetime, which is recorded in the form of memories. in a way, memories are people’s way of diagraming history.

I am very intrigued by the notion of memory. we experience something in every moment of every day. what makes us remember certain things? is it the ritual of them? the resonance of moments of extreme catastrophy or happiness? how much of our memory is from our own personal recollections of an event, and how much of it from the mediation of the event? Is a memory an individual experience, or can it be shared by a group who experiences the same thing together– a collective memory.

some event embed themselves so deeply into our memories. i remember where i was, what i was wearing, who i was with, images from a 7th grade classroom, and a bus ride home on this one particular day in september of 2001. i remember the images of the two towers–but i was not there. that memory is from the mediation of the event. not the event itself. that is how most of the world experienced 9/11, as a mediation, but it is something that hit us all individually as we watched the tv filled with fear, confusion, and remorse. the fact that we all experienced it together, as americans, and as humans, makes this one memory a collective one.

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