Expressions from The New York Times article
Sorry to give you a longer piece. But I have made it quite easy to read by adding a few notes in colored font. Hope we all can benefit from discussions of the piece. Thanks in advance.
Remembering and Forgetting
From the New York Times
Published: May 29, 2006
For many Americans, today brings with it a conscious act of memory — a visit to the cemetery, the laying of a new wreath or perhaps just a long pause in silence. Some people need to make no effort at all to remember who has been laid to rest; the grave is fresh, and so is the grief. In some cemeteries, the graves of military veterans are tended by members of the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars. And in other cemeteries, of course, the graves get no tending at all and are already thick in grass by the end of May. The dead grow more distant, year by year. The living are so busy simply living.
But if this is a day devoted to remembering, it's also a day that has to acknowledge forgetting. The force of the season insists upon it 1. So does the logic of time 2, which is an ethical mystery all its own 3. It would be good to find the very old grave of a soldier from long ago — not anonymous, but still unknown — and pay it a visit. Pick up the litter, yes, but let the grass keep growing. Stand where someone from an old war is lying, a veteran of the Civil War perhaps. For a moment, you may wonder how that person died. But what you'll really find yourself wondering is how he lived and what he knew.
We will all be forgotten in time, and our graves will vanish. That doesn't sound like a May thought. But that knowledge comes along with us to the graveyard, and the effect is not as somber as you might imagine 4. The day is too bright, the sun too warm, the shadows too deep and green 5. Memorial Day may be hazy with memory, but it is also drowsy with life 6. Summer is in the next block, just around the corner, and summer is a season almost completely lacking in gravity 7. It is meant for living in the oblivion of the present 8.
(1. The force of the season: The season is May, a season that forces you to forget. The act of remembering the dead is not easily motivated in May, as the season symbolizes sunshine and blossoming, which is not suitable for a depressed feeling of remembering the dead. Is this OK? )
(2. The logic of time insists upon it too because with time passing by, it is logical that people forget, right?)
(3. which is an ethical mystery all its own? I have no idea what this is about. The best I can make out is that when time goes by, people usually forget, which is mysterious. But that does solve the problem of ethical. Help is needed.)
(4. So far as I understand, the knowledge (we will be forgotten…) that comes along with us to graveyard, is interpreted as a sad thing in a normal case, as we will always have this knowledge until we reach the graveyard. But strangely the effect of the knowledge is not so sad or somber. So for me, AND here seems to mean BUT. Am I wrong?)
(5. Apparently the shadows here is a positive thing together with bright day and warm sun in contrast with somber. But what does the shadow refer to? The best I can think of is the shadows from blossoming trees and flowers of May. If my interpretation is right, then we probably need to make a clear distinction between shadows used metaphorically, as in shadows of the war, and shadows used literally, as in this case in which shadows are real shadows. Metaphoric shadows often suggest danger, that sort of thing.)
(6. hazy with memory, but it is also drowsy with life: hazy with memory seems to mean that in May people’s memory of the past is not very strong, fading…, hazy in terms of not seeing clearly. So it’s metaphorically used here. But what does drowsy with life mean? Drowsy usually suggests a feeling you have after taking some drug or drinking some wine. But in this case, I still cannot figure out the contextual connotation.)
(7. lacking in gravity. No clue. The best I can think of here is gravity means worrying or concerning mental status, which leads people to think about unhappy things in the past to make one worried or concerned or any other depressed mentality, but summer lacks that. Summer puts people in a sort of high spirit. Does it make sense?)
(8. in the oblivion of the present. I want to unpack the relation between oblivion and present. To me, it means in your life you are so involved in the present that you forget the past. In other words, the present is not forgotten, the past is. Or we can say THE PRESENT is the doer that causes the oblivion, not the other way round. But I am not sure at all.)
Re: Expressions from The New York Times article
In the United States, the last Monday in May is Memorial Day. It is a day meant to recognize those who died in service to their country. The tradition is to visit a cemetery and to lay a wreath, or tidy up a grave. If you have a fallen soldier in your family, you'd visit his grave, otherwise it's traditional just to visit the grave of any soldier, such as one from the Civil War or World War I - someone who probably has no relatives left, and whose grave has been left untended.
As poignant and sobering as all that is, Memorial Day is also considered to be the unofficial start of Summer. It's a holiday, so people have the day off from work, and the weather is usually bright, sunny and warm. It's a time for barbecues and picnics and weekend getaways. So even though we're temporarily saddened while visiting the cemetery, and deep in our hearts we know that someday we'll end up in that same place, at the moment the sun is shining, you can smell charcoal grills in the distance, and the beach or the open road is summoning you. No time to dwell on the brevity of life - pay your respects to the dead, but then get out of there, forget about it and enjoy life!
In this case, the shadows aren't dark and gloomy scary type; on a bright May day, the shadows that are cast are a place to get out of the hot sun and maybe spread out a blanket and have a picnic or read a book. The oblivion of the present - we are too caught up in our daily tasks and obligations to think of the past. We so busy every day that it makes us oblivious to the past. (For example, on average day, while rushing around, getting ready for work, commuting back and forth, working all day, coming home and taking care of household chores, etc., very few of us pause and think about things like World War II or the Black Plague or other very serious parts of history. We're obvlivious to everything except what we're doing at the moment.)
Re: Expressions from The New York Times article
Thanks a lot for your complete explanation. It is very helpful. It seems in your explanation, you agreed with me on most of the questions, even though you didn't directly answer those questions. But could you or anyone else, give me specific comments on items 2,3 and 6, that is, logic of time, ethical mystery and drowsy with life? Just let me now whether my interpretations i are ok or not.
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