“Precious things lost are transmutable. They refuse oblivion. They simply wait to be rendered into testimonies, into stories and songs”
There comes a time when a person wishes to forget some episodes, people, or even him/herself. However, since he/she may wish to do so, the statement “Precious things lost are transmutable. They refuse oblivion. They simply wait to be rendered into testimonies, into stories and songs” (Author Unknown 2) comes in handy. The author symbolically describes how they lost all their family photos in their native country of Vietnam.
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The photos symbolize our precious history and heritage. Our history and heritage cannot simply get lost: it has survived over time. People have preserved it in the form of the day-to-day stories, songs, and testimonies, which they then transmit over time as oral history sealed in books. A community can preserve its history for thousands as Lam confirms, “For the first time in their embattled history, a history alleged to be four thousand years” (4).
Society preserves its values of moral and religious beliefs, heroes, and heroines as history in stories, songs, and testimonies, which it passes down from one generation to the next. It can never erase such history. Just like the virus that causes AIDS, history can only take another form: song, story, and or testimonies.
Precious things undergo transmutations in various ways. For instance, some societies convert them into rituals, songs, poems, and games. Lam says that, by the time the war was over, many of them had not died protecting their lands as “in our rituals, poetry, songs and games had promised themselves and the ancestors” (4). Others convert precious things like family history into photos and movies. The author of the Lost Photos says that he removed “pictures from the album pages, diplomas from their glass frames, film reels from metal canisters” (1).
These are durable and more vivid than the songs and poetry. They capture the reality of the moment. History and heritage can take the form of stories and poems, which people preserve in the form of writings. For thousands of years, history has been recorded using rudimentary methods like scrolls and tablets. The present holy bible was once a scroll.
The history and the heritage refuse oblivion to maintain the identity of the people. People without history would lack a sense of belonging. There would be no connection to their ancestors. The history and heritage serve as a link between the generations. They preserve precious memories. The author says, “When he was done, the mementos of three generations had gone to ashes” (Author Unknown 1). People are aware of what their ancestors believed in and what they did.
They have preserved their actions to acculturate their values to the present generation in a bid to shun alienation. They will never forget their history since it can educate the young ones, provide spiritual growth on their religion, as well as a sense of hope. Lam says, “these stories are a concern to their young listeners’ spiritual growth and…to prepare the next generation for cataclysm and grief” (10). They provide a sense of belonging to those people who are extraordinarily far from their ancestral homes either willingly or forcefully. Subsequent generations would be aware of their origin and heritage.
Various testimonies, songs, and poems support the idea that precious things refuse to be forgotten. In the essay, A Child of Two Worlds, the author starts with a quote from a Vietnamese folk song. Then he goes on to describe how Mrs. Lau informs him that his umbilical cord is buried somewhere in their garden. This vividly reminds him of his heritage. They give a sense of identity. Similarly, the author “gets rid of anything incriminating such as the pictures, diplomas, and films” (Author Unknown 1).
A child of two worlds presents a story of the ill-fated princess and her love for the angler. It teaches valuable lessons about love. It is only through people’s love of their things that make them precious and hence the reason behind their efforts to preserve them.
Author Unknown. Lost Photos. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1997. Print.
Lam, Andrew. Perfume Dreams. California: Heyday Books, 2005. Print.