There Is No Past

1. In an old episode of “Married With Children”, Al Bundy keeps trying to remember the name of an old tune from his youth. He remembers the portion “hm hm him”, and sings it to everyone around, to no avail; no one knows what song he’s talking about. It is until he finds himself at a record store that  a higher power delivers the song to him via a jukebox. Only then is he able to identify the song’s title and buy the record. (Here is the long version).

2. When I was a kid, I’d listen intently to songs that played on the radio. There were only two frequencies, AM or FM. The shelf life of radio music was about five years; songs played again and again, until they went out of fashion and were forgotten, replaced by an endless cycle of new hits. It was hard back then to find again most of the songs that stuck in my memory (which were plenty; I have a long musical memory). If I didn’t know the artist’s name or song title, it was unlikely that I would ever find a song again. The same went for TV shows and movies. Back in the early 80’s even Betamax or VHS tapes didn’t yet exist.

3. In the year 2000 I tried to find an old song that kept playing in my mind. The only portions that I remembered clearly were a verse that said something like “I just wanna be with you/near you” and a cheerful portion of the brass section. With that information I called the DJ at the radio station from my youth, and repeated to him -actually hummed- the portions I knew. He was unable to identify the song. I then tried to find the known verse on the Internet, but could not find a song that matched my memory among the thousands of lyrics that showed on the search results.

It all changed with the advent of YouTube. When I looked for the same song in late 2007, I immediately found “Any Fool Could See” by Barry White. Someone had uploaded it a few days before I searched. That was a significant discovery. From there I was able to find endless lost lyrics and songs. Among them were “Búscame” by a duo that in my youth didn’t know was called Sergio y Estíbaliz; the vintage-sounding “Walk Right In” by The Rooftop Singers; “Popcorn,”a fun instrumental by Jean Michel Jarre.

A few sleepless nights ago I recalled an old song by Mexican singer Emmanuel. It must have been 1983 when I called a radio station, answered the contest question, and won Emmanuel’s latest album, “En La Soledad ” (which translates to “In Solitude”). I looked on YouTube for tracks from that record. While I remembered one called “The Last Day Of Autumn”, I had forgotten another one that appeared as a YouTube suggestion, called “Por (Because)“. I listened to it in the lone darkness of my room. For a brief moment I was nine years old again, full of hope, enthralled by a singer’s beautiful voice, imagining vividly the things described in the lyrics. It then  dawned on me that there is no longer a past. It can be brought back and recollected at will, through the magic of the Internet. I realized that, while I have been externally transformed by the years and experience, I am essentially the same timeless soul as when I was a transparent little kid.

Perhaps the millennial cultures of Asia, without the aid of technology, have always known the same. I hear that for them there is no past or future, just an endless cycle of life, without a beginning or an end.

–MM