The Temple of Memory

A Passage from Luminous Airplanes, or Things As They Were: A Hyperromance

This is a photograph of the Temple of Memory, one of the structures built in the Nevada desert for the festival. When I was there, I wondered  what a Temple of Memory was doing in a festival about Contact With Other Worlds: shouldn’t it have been a Temple of the Cosmos or something like that? No one I talked to could explain it. I thought possibly it had been intended for some other festival, maybe even another festival in the Nevada desert, which was cancelled. So the builders brought it here, or rather there, figuring better a festival with the wrong theme than no festival at all.

Despite its uncosmic name, the Temple of Memory was a hit. Any time of day or night, you could find hundreds of people there, milling around, as they are in this photo, or sitting on the ground, lost in thought. Maybe they were remembering. Or maybe they wished for memory like the people at the Palace of Luck (another non-thematically-appropriate structure) wished for luck. And maybe, if you sat in the shade of the Temple of Memory for long enough, memories would come to you…

I didn’t spend much time at the Temple of Memory. I was too busy riding my bicycle back and forth across the desert, looking for Pearl Fabula, who was supposed to play a set. Then I found Pearl, and, like a lot of other people at the festival, I got caught up in the mystery of the sounds (or were they music?) he had played. Then came the climax of the festival, when Star and Erin and Josh and I took psilocybin mushrooms and acted as if we were still the people we had been in 1995, 1996.

The Temple of Memory burned that night, like a lot of other things at the festival. There was nothing left of it the next morning but some squiggles of wood and scars in the ground, marks that the rainy season would erase. “No more memories,” Josh said. But of course that wasn’t true. The Temple had surrendered its memories; they were floating in the air all around us, rising high overhead, spreading out like smoke over the world.

That was seven years ago. Now when I look at this photograph, I can hardly remember that I took it. (It doesn’t help that the festival was extensively photographed, or that almost everyone’s pictures of it look the same, as though there were only one perspective from which to see things, out there, in the desert.) I don’t know what that triangular thing in the left-hand side of the frame is, or what the banners in the center foreground say. I put it here, at the beginning of my Commentary, because I want to remind myself that it really existed, and that no matter how far I am from that desert, I was once there, and innocent, and more or less free. I want to remember that there was a time before.

Memory is another world.

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