A good traveler is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveler does not know where he came from.
- Lin Yutang, Writer
In American life, we think we are most free when we don't need anybody. Exactly what Alzheimer's represents is absolute dependency - That's what we all need to learn - how deeply we need one another.
- Stanley Hauerwas, Professor of Theological Ethics
Nothing is more revealing than movement.
- Martha Graham, Dancer
They invented hugs to let people know you love them without saying anything.
- Bil Keane, Cartoonist
I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.
- Albert Schweitzer, Missionary
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
- William James, Philosopher
Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.
- Christopher Columbus, Explorer
Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat . . .We must find each other.
- Mother Theresa, Saint
All real living is meeting.
- Martin Buber, Philosopher
You can't stay in your corner of the forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.
- A. A. Milne, Author (Winnie the Pooh)
Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essayist
If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand a lonely person, extraordinary things begin to happen.
- Loretta Girzartis, Author
Memory Bridge Newsletter
05/01/10 - Reading for Life: Memory and Culture
The Memory of Mad Men by Kim Bell
Like nearly every other television show of its caliber, Mad Men—a series about the glossy world of advertising in the early ’60s—explores the role of memory in fascinating ways. Don Draper, the handsome star of the show, has rejected his past in order to invent a new life for himself. He is as successful in this pursuit as he is as a partner in his advertising firm; in fact, the Life of Don Draper is probably his most persuasive advertising campaign. It’s slick and sexy, city and suburban, and—as we know by the multitude of women he attracts (this viewer included)—has a wide appeal. However, a façade is always just that, and, as the narrative develops, more and more elements of Don’s past life disrupt the linear flow of the story, as well as Don’s ability to remain present to his family, his co-workers, and himself.
Segments from Don’s past flash abruptly on the screen like old-fashioned slides in a projector. The slide projector, in fact, represents a significant metaphor for the role of memory in the show. One of the most wonderful moments in this series occurs during one of Don’s pitches to his clients, the inventors of the slide projector. Don sets up a projector, the lights are dimmed, and he shows the businessmen around the table the archetypal scenes from his own (reinvented) life, nostalgic images of his wedding, his wife, his children. He gives them, through these shots, a clearer vision of the ultimate significance of this machine that the inventors have been calling, unimaginatively, a “wheel.” He tells them, in summary, “It’s not a wheel. It’s a carousel.” He might as well have said this about memory itself. Memory, as it is explored in this show, is not the mechanical march through time but something that flashes up in front of us in brief scenes that can be reordered, revisited, played forward or backward, turned off and on.
Don Draper’s lack of a past ultimately results in his lack of a present: his wife kicks him out of the house, his position at the company is threatened by, first, a co-worker who discovers his secrets and, later, by a merger with a London firm. At the moment he is poised to lose everything, he makes a journey to see the person who represents the link between his past and present selves. When he returns home, he recommits to his wife, his life, and at the beginning of season three: Betty is pregnant.
By allowing memories to surface, no matter the order, Don Draper welcomes a certain kind of fertile presence into his life. Because life is not a wheel that takes us from one place to the next.