My "archives" are filled with letters and postcards never sent. Looking at the one below, you might think it's because I was saved by prudent second-guessing. More likely, though, I simply never made it to the post office to buy a stamp:I shudder to think what my best friend from high school would have thought of this button-pushing missive. The son of a moderate Republican who eventually moved to the right and ran for Congress, he walked the straight and narrow with few stumbles. By the time I wrote this postcard, by contrast, I had long since departed from the path to Southern Maryland respectability.
I look at lots of personal blogs, some on Live Journal and some not. Not many of them show evidence of what I call my "archival" impulse. Even when people write about their past, they don't tend to deploy primary documents to that end. I, on the other hand, am always looking for new items to iron flat between sheets of digital wax paper. My entry from earlier today is the latest example of that work of transfiguration. It's a labor I care for deeply. I can come up with plenty of reasons why. Today, though, I'm not satisfied with the usual ones. Maybe I have less knowledge of the forces exerting themselves on me than I like to think. On the other hand, I remain convinced that my behavior reflects a few basic principles: 1) truth matters; 2) the energy needed to produce a truth of the self derives from the differential between past and present, the historical artifact and the words in which we recontextualize it; 3) even when they are represented digitally, artifacts speak to us in ways that complicate our speaking; 4) it is both possible and desirable to model the construction of a truth of the self in a medium where the passage of time is foregrounded.