We are having decorators in this week, so this has involved a fair amount of packing away of things and a bit of sorting out. On the inside of one of the kitchen cupboards there are a lot of keys. House keys, car keys, suitcase keys, many of which we look at in dismay, desperately trying to remember what they unlock.
Keys tell a history, don't they? When you look at those keys, and try to remember which particular door or cupboard they are married to, what memories do they evoke? Keys can keep secrets like the bridge in France, littered with padlocks to lock away secrets for generations of people who traverse the walkway. I often wonder what people do with the key afterwards? Do they throw it into the river, or, frightened of the consequences of that, that final desperate letting go, perhaps they put it in a box or safe somewhere, locked, paradoxically, with another key. Does the effort of placing the lock on the bridge expunge the memory locked in the compartments of the mind? Does the keeping of the key (or indeed the disposal of it) help cathartically? We can't forcibly forget something, despite Freud's best work on the unconscious - repression is, well, unconscious. You can't choose to repress something. Because the conscious attempt at repression simply recalls the memory.
Keys remind us of our past. They place us, not just temporally, but also spatially in the past. Keys remind us not just of times we have been, but places we have inhabited. To own the key is to own a small piece of that past: to place something in a location in the corridors of the mind. Looking through the keys in the cupboard I recall the first time I placed the key in the lock, to open a new part of my life. Keys, then, signal the past but when we first take ownership of them, they signal the future. Each one of those keys in the cupboard was a move forward: and in their very existence now they hold that memory for me. Where was I going, what excitement did I feel?
The keys are tarnished and scratched; evidence of life lived. We carry keys with us where we go. They experience life with us, recording and remembering, so each one of those scratches, the veneer that is tarnished, means that I experienced life. The key records, in each of those impairments, a step forward in my life.
Would that I could hold, now, the keys of the future. In the future, I will hold the keys I carry with me now and I will wonder what they were for: what areas of my life did they unlock - for good or bad. But as long as I keep moving forward, taking the new keys and allowing them to open new realities, struggles or enlightenment, I am living.