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The Case For Forgetting…

by Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander on March 29th, 02010

Death Bear visits clients in their homes and accepts love letters, old photos, anything they cant just throw away. The man behind the mask, Nate Hill, says he wants to create art that helps people. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / March 18, 2010)

Death Bear visits clients in their homes and accepts love letters, old photos, anything they can't just throw away. The man behind the mask, Nate Hill, says he wants to create art that helps people. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times / March 18, 2010)

At The Long Now Foundation we spend a lot of time trying to figure out how to preserve information and artifacts from our increasingly ephemeral culture.  A piece in the LA TImes sent in this morning by board member Paul Saffo reminded me of a point that Brian Eno brought up at our first conference on digital preservation: the case for forgetting.

If we were able to save and recall absolutely everything, we have to remember that sometimes the past can be as stifling as it is informative.  Many great inventions for instance may never have been created if the inventors actually knew how many great minds failed before them.  But aside from innovation there is also the emotional side to memory.  This story about the Death Bear project reminds us that there is plenty that we may want to forget, and that by doing so we can liberate our future. (excerpt below)

And while most of his calls are from the lovelorn, others hint at tragedies greater than being dateless on Valentine’s Day.

One man gave Hill a photo of himself and his ex-girlfriend on a beach and said they had served in the Army together. Then he gave Hill his military dog tags. Finally, he handed Hill a bullet.

“He almost started to cry,” said Hill, whose clients know him only as Death Bear and never see his face. “I started walking away and started to break down. I thought maybe something happened to her. Maybe she got shot, maybe she killed herself.”

But Hill never presses clients for details. As a bear, his job is not to make conversation. (read the full article)

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Alexander Rose - Twitter: @zander