He dreamt of walking in a flowering wood where birds flew before them he and the child and the sky was aching blue but he was learning how to wake himself from just such siren worlds. Lying there in the dark with the uncanny taste of a peach from some phantom orchard fading in his mouth. He thought if he lived long enough the world at last would all be lost. Like the dying world the newly blind inhabit, all of it slowly fading from memory.
The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colours. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than he would have thought. How much was gone already? The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality.Without the webs of meaning that link objects and people together within a culture, the possibility of feeling what Martha Nussbaum has called the ‘upheaval of thought’, the disruption of identity consequent on loss of attachment and grief, is undermined.14 The symbolic dimension of the past is as prey to entropy as is the natural complexity produced by billions of years of evolution. For this reason, the stories that the father tells his son as a way of weaving a last thread of cultural continuity are, as he recognizes, hazardous at the same time as being necessary: becoming involved with the past, either through invoked memories or simply through imagination risks awakening dynamics of mourning or melancholy (in Freud’s sense) or mere fantasy.