I’ve been thinking a lot about that word, irrecollections.
What does it mean to recollect something? Better, what does it mean to irrecollect? And what does that word become when we make it a noun? What does it look like? Sound like? Feel like? What happens when we group several together and make it plural? What do they become, then?
And how does that word affect the work in this blog? It is the title, after all. These latest entries all seem to revolve around a central theme. What is that theme, and what does the title of this collection reveal about it? How does it affect the way you, my readers, read it?
Let’s think on it together.
1. What does it mean to recollect something?
The first question is easy to answer; look at a dictionary. There are several online. Here are a few entries:
1. to recall to mind; recover knowledge of by memory; remember.
2. to absorb (oneself) in spiritual meditation, especially during prayer.
From Google’s dictionary:
verb: recollect; 3rd person present: recollects; past tense: recollected; past participle: recollected; gerund or present participle: recollecting.
remember (something); call to mind.
Google also traces the etymology of the word. Shockingly, it comes from Latin: the root word colligere means “to gather”; the prefix re- means “back.” Altogether, recolligere means “to gather back.” This isn’t too far from the Italian word for collecting and gathering, raccolgiere.
Google traces the English version of word to the 16th century, though it neither credits anyone for its first use nor provides illustrative quotes. (It was likely Shakespeare. It’s always Shakespeare. He invented everything, even when he didn’t.)
The word also represents a member of a reformed branch of the Franciscan order, used today to represent a gathering of people. It originates, unsurprisingly, from the French word récollet and the Medieval Latin recollectus, a version of recolligere above.
The primary Oxford Dictionaries definition echoes the above Google one, word for word–likely because Oxford Dictionaries and Google share the same root dictionary: the OED. I won’t bore you with that definition. You can look it up if you like. I linked it.
Oxford does, however, offer a couple noteworthy definitions that Google overlooks.
From the second entry:
1. Bring oneself back to a state of composure.
2. Collect or gather together again.
In sum, to recollect is “to physically and/or introspectively gather together.” Or, at least, that’s the definition I’m using.
Or, at least, that’s the definition I’m using.
2. What does it mean to irrecollect?
If re-collect means “to gather back,” then what does it mean to ir-re-collect?
The Wiktionary states that ir- represents negation (not), a definition several dictionaries and encyclopedias echo. Ir- is also Latin.
So to irrecollect means “to not gather back,” right? Not necessarily.
If recollect is a mountain in the distance, then the prefix ir- is the mist in front of it that obscures it from view. We can still see its rough outline, but we can’t make it out completely. It remains silhouetted, estranged from us–simultaneously foreign and familiar. We’ve seen it before but never like this; this old horizon feels suddenly alien.
To irrecollect is “to misremember.”
3. What is an irrecollection?
An irrecolletion is a hesitation. When did that happen? How did it happen? What did it look like? Where was I? What was I doing? Who else was there? What was their name? It’s right on the tip of my tongue; I seem to have misplaced it.
These “morning coffee” entries are exercises in forgetfulness; they are expeditions into a failing mind.
My grandmother passed away last year. She suffered from dementia. Arguably, that’s what killed her–that and failing organs. As her mind failed, she became lonely; as the years dragged on, she grew paranoid: “If I can’t remember putting the television remote down, then someone must have moved it. If I can’t find it, then they must have taken it.” She was trapped inside herself, and she grew bitter as she learned to live with it.
This blog is, more or less, an exploration of utter loneliness. The narrator of “morning coffee” is, in his own words, scrupulous. I call him neurotic. As he begins a new job (a lonely experience in itself), he sits in his cubicle (isolated), and he fails to recollect things. He’s trapped, physically and psychologically, and his mind warps the real into the sublime to cope–in much the same way our eyes see shapes when we look at stucco too long.
Yes, it’s weird. Yes, It’s kind of funny sometimes. But the end result should terrify you–because it can actually happen. It happened to my grandmother.
As I push forward, I intend to further explore my above definition of recollect. I’m particularly interested in physically recollecting. What does that even look like? What people or items are necessary to remember?
Another thing–a couple real-world friends have noticed parallels between my blog and my real life. Those parallels are intentional: one does not have to “fail” at remembering to misremember. Those are called lies. And isn’t that exactly what fiction is, creative lies?