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The High Price of Memory

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The High Price of Memory

Post  J.C. Marrero on Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:51 pm

It seems that the most remembered historical figures are the tragic ones. If asked to name the most famous czar and consort, it may be that Nicholas and Alexandra are the most remembered. Similarly, Louis and Marie Antoinette are far more likely to be recalled than even Louis XIV or Louis XV. Among our presidents, Lincoln and Kennedy never escape notice (poor Garfield and McKinley do).

None of them, of course, would have traded an early grave for enduring notoriety, but just the same they became legends partly because of the tragic romance of their deaths. What does that say about collective memory? Is it somehow an expiatory exercise? Do these figures from the past become emblematic of life's unfairness and we somehow feel that our problems are more bearable because these great figures stood on pinnacles that, as Kissinger eulogized Nixon, became precipices? Or do we hope that our allegiance still somehow reaches them and asuages the pain?

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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 14, 2011 7:03 pm

Great reflections. As the ancient Greeks discovered, there is something cathartic about a tragedy. People are helped to empty and confront their own sorrows and frustrations when hearing the tragedies of the past retold, especially when the protagonists are essentially noble and good. We can acquire courage as well as wisdom.

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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  Mata Hari on Sun Nov 20, 2011 11:08 pm

Those are excellent points. I think that those who have untimely deaths haunt us because we will never know what greatness they might have reached had they been allowed to live out their lives.

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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  May on Mon Nov 21, 2011 12:17 am

In the case of the good and noble who died prematurely, I think they also haunt us simply because of the tremendous sense of loss.
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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 21, 2011 1:01 am

I think so. We feel the loss, wondering if the world would be better off of they had lived longer.

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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  May on Mon Nov 21, 2011 1:23 am

That is definitely what happened in Belgium amidst the mourning for King Albert I and Queen Astrid. Astrid especially left a huge void in the hearts of her people, and many, including Astrid's cousin Count Bernadotte, felt that the later controversy over King Leopold III would never have become so bitter, had she been alive.
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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  Elena on Mon Nov 21, 2011 1:32 am

Yes, I was just thinking of them as well. Crying or Very sad

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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  May on Mon Feb 27, 2012 12:38 am

J.C. Marrero wrote:Among our presidents, Lincoln and Kennedy never escape notice (poor Garfield and McKinley do).

As it happens, there is a new book out, written with much loving care, about Garfield's assassination. Here is a talk by the author, the lovely Candice Millard. She seems determined to wrest our 20th president from obscurity.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmebtlLULpY
I have actually just started reading the book and may try to review it at some point.
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Re: The High Price of Memory

Post  Elena on Mon Feb 27, 2012 10:27 am

Thank you, M. How interesting!! Smile

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