Erasure


The building was of a grand scale and many claimed that it was the most attractive on campus. Styled in the same red brick that composed the other university structures, the dorm once stretched across the mass that is now Alumni Lawn and maintained an impressive air about it. Housing four floors of rowdy boys, who where known for stealing police motorcycles for fun, it was only the truest symbol of Vanderbilt camaraderie that the university so prided (and still prides) itself on.

This building that I speak of doesn’t exist anymore. Torn down to make room for more contemporary structures or engulfed in a fire, whatever the reason, it simply did not translate into the modern world. Like so many of its contemporaries, it was easily erased with time, made forgotten by the wake of constant world revision.

In reading about the decomposing Istanbul that arouses so much nostalgia in Pamuk, I could not help but think about the transcendence of this antique Vanderbilt dorm into a mere memory. And, while I do not hold even a fraction of the passion that Pamuk holds towards his beloved Istanbul, I am saddened by the erasure of these founding buildings here on campus. That the campus and Istanbul, as well as the petite Jewish children that I wrote about last week, are now merely suggestions of their former referents, is overwhelmingly disheartening. (Like my former overexposing of the Jewish children’s faces, I distorted this photograph that I took of the spot where this obliterated dormitory once rested. I blurred the image incessantly as to firmly emphasize its transference into nothing but a mere memory.)

Yet, in thinking about this corrosion of the past that we see by evaluating both the Vanderbilt campus and Istanbul, while it is poignant, it is also inevitable (which possibly makes its actuality even more distressing). As unbearable as it may seem to accept, this erasure of past realities is a continuous cycle that can be whittled down to being a simple “matter-of-fact.” It is a blunt and harsh truth to fully realize, but it is the only way that I can make sense of it. To view this decomposition as something unavoidable makes it less painful to accept. It is also what drives the collective memory that I spoke about in my last post. As time greedily wears on, and history slowly creeps away from us, we cling to past realities as best we can. It is this individual and unwavering desire to grip onto the past that transforms into a communal yearning to remember. And thus, as we cannot avoid the gradual decay of the past, we also cannot abstain from creating the collective memory—they are both inevitable.

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