Madeleines

No sooner had the warm liquid mixed with the crumbs touched my palate than a shudder ran through me and I stopped, intent upon the extraordinary thing that was happening to me. An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. … Whence did it come? What did it mean? How could I seize and apprehend it? … And suddenly the memory revealed itself. The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom, my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane. The sight of the little madeleine had recalled nothing to my mind before I tasted it. And all from my cup of tea.

— Marcel Proust, In Search of Lost Time

We take pictures because something right then and there in that frame triggers the feeling of an older memory. We take pictures so that we can keep the memory of us having that feeling forever. Maybe the only pictures worth being taken are madeleines.

Memory, unlike time (time as established convention), is not linear. A madeleine can, and do, occasionally, recall feelings linked to things not yet happened. Also, memory is not limited to personal experience. As C. G. Jung put it long time ago, we do own the memory of our entire species – therefore any picture can be a madeleine at some point or to someone else than its author, as it’s less about the image itself and more about the hidden reason for we connect to it sub/unconsciously. If madeleine, the picture enables us to find, through something deeply personal such as a specific memory, the essence of humanity within us.

We take pictures so that we last, so that we don’t die. We don’t know nor believe that there is no death. But the right picture could teach that to us. The right picture could give us a glimpse of our endlessness.

That right picture, most of us never manage to take.