Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I spent most of yesterday morning and this morning shredding documents — piles and piles of them. It occurred to me that about 80% of what is shredded is part of 'defensive shredding'. This is stuff you don't need to keep but which you feel you don't want to have running about outside, probably because if people got their hands on it, they'd spam you with subscriptions for odd magazines and advertisements for (haha) unit trusts or property.

About 20% of it, however, can be truly tempting. Minutes of institutional meetings at which people discuss sensitive things, archival data which you know some future historian would give his right arm (or at least a finger) for, innocent statements by incautious people which you could someday take out of context and use... thank God I am not exposed to such documents on a regular basis.

Then it struck me that what I was doing was limiting the future options for other people. By destroying material which I knew would never otherwise see the light of day, material which probably was the last of its kind, I was protecting some people from future harm, protecting unborn people from having opprobrium visited upon their ancestors, protecting an image of the past by editing it, sculpting it, trimming it.

I was shrediting. I was making sure that innocent pieces of information never got the chance to be dangerous. They would never grow up and become part of some narrative tapestry, but remain forever threads, smaller and smaller, dustier and dustier, motives into motes.

I wonder if my memories are going to go that way too.

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