Memories Rooted in People Are Immortal. Buildings Are Not.

It’s a common letdown.

Graduated students visit their old school and see new buildings, different classes, unfamiliar faces.

People visit the town they used to live in and discover that the stores they visited as a kid have gone out of business, the book store is no longer on the street it used to be on, and that friendly neighbor grew old and died.

Early founders of large companies no longer active in the day-to-day management make a triumphant visit to the company’s headquarters and find a completely different corporate culture, "unnecessary" bureaucracy, and so forth.

The point is that places change. Buildings are destroyed. Shit happens. Ultimately, the most lasting memories are those rooted in people.

When I arrived in Zurich a couple days ago, I found a city virtually unchanged from when I spent three weeks here last summer. But as I reconnected with my wonderful friends and "family" here, it struck me that the reason why I love Zurich is only partly because it’s a great city. Mostly it’s the people. Zurich, for me, will be the personalities I spent time with, not the City’s museums, parks, or physical contours.

I’ve been on the road for only two weeks and the places I’ve been are already starting to blur. But not the people I’ve met.

The best way, then, to rekindle old memories is to stay connected with the people who had those shared experiences. The process is more physic than physical. Memories rooted in people are immortal.

4 comments on “Memories Rooted in People Are Immortal. Buildings Are Not.
  • I sort of agree with you. A few tricky things are everything’s always changing. And memories lead me into a future that is a derrivative of my past.

    Additionally, any memory is processed and stored in a mind that has a different frame of reference than the other person involved (no matter how close you are).

    To me, it seems, memories rooted in people are limiting. Feelings created by connection are eternal and that starts with me.

    Now, Ben, perhaps there is something to the fact that Zurich was your first time out of the country and I know it’s been instrumental in how you understand yourself.

    Who knows? One thing’s for sure, I dig when you blog on this type of stuff.


  • Ben,
    I take issue with the assertion that buildings are not immortal.
    For example, if you go to a restaurant that you often frequented with a single person, you will think of them and the good times that you had there rather than where you sat. I would guess that you would try to relive those experiences in your head. So yes, in one way your experiences with people make for more lasting memories than the place where you had them. But you can’t take the environment for granted just because the people are no longer there. Buildings are immortal not because of the memories they foster, but because of the way they shape our laughter, thoughts, and lives as a whole. You’re saying that people matter most to memories, and I agree. But our built environments are a contributing factor to what, I believe, shape the people you have memories with.

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