Sunday, September 24, 2017

Remembering The Duomo, Florence

Some people comment and query upon how come I have such a good memory. The older I get the more important an active memory becomes, for memory is a critical aspect of thinking, cognition, and therefore how we see the world. It also helps manage (for me) the Anxiety of Existence; the randomness of 'Being' and combatting negative, depressive and dangerous thinking.

The process of cultivating a sharp and extensive memory is not easy, it requires effort and an organisation of the thought processes. This effort, this cultivation, & activation of 'Memory' not only requires the managed and lucid recall of 'good & insightful' past events, but also the management of bad ones too. It also requires constant maintenance, as well as an awareness of how the memories we keep, morph and distort as we reflect, re-interpret as well as rationalise what we construct as reality, our existence, and who we share it with.

Ultimately memory also helps explain 'who we are' - by the context of our existence from our memories.

I smiled many years ago when I stumbled upon a book by Jonathan Spence, about Matteo Ricci. At the risk of emitting a loud clanging name-drop; I came across this work from my correspondence with Thomas Harris many years ago, when I asked him about Dr Hannibal Lecter's ability in drawing (with charcoal) The Duomo [The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore], from Florence (from Memory as he didn't have a window in his cell) while incarcerated in Baltimore. Harris told me that Dr Lecter's Memory sprang from this book on Ricci, which he would later name check in the footnotes of 1999's much misunderstood (and from some quarters much maligned) HANNIBAL.

This Sunday morning the house is silent. My wife Muriel is at the Gym. Our eldest daughter Sophia has gone into work of her own volition, as like all the Karims' - we work hard. Our Son Alexander is in Malaysia to view the upcoming Grand Prix with friends and our youngest daughter Miriam spends her first day at University, in Hall.
I am alone in bed, with my thoughts.

Last night we hit traffic (Sophia, Muriel and I) returning back from moving our youngest daughter to University. There were road closures, diversions, it was bad biff. We argued in the car as we were tired and after a long and emotional day, we were stressed leaving the youngest Karim to fend for herself in this weird reality we share.

At one point while bypassing the Sat-Nav (which had gone rogue) Sophia said 'Dad you are weird, you think weirdly' it made me silent as that observation made me ponder.

Yesterday our youngest daughter Miriam presented me with a gift from her recent travels in San Francisco - as we ate a meal, part of the ritual families do when they part, she passed me over a gift, a small square piece of plastic, with a microchip embedded beneath the surface.

The gift was a device called ‘Tile’ that links your keys, IPhone to a computer. It attaches to your key-ring and has a button that makes your phone ring if you've misplaced it, so you can find it. Miriam said 'so it will help you, if your memory fails'

I smiled at the word memory.

Sure, I touch my bulky key ring (which also acts as a defence tool) many times in the day, feeling its comfort in my trouser leg (during the day) and now (thanks to Miriam's gift) it can help me locate my IPhone, if I misplace it.

The 'Tile device' is small and attached to my key chain, so i feel the white plastic gift from my Daughter all the time, and I mean all the time. So several times of the day, I will think lucidly about our youngest Daughter Miriam Karim, because of this 'Tile', now part of my defensive key ring - something I see and feel throughout my 'conscious' day, as it comforts and is a tangible part of my realty; and makes me think about Miriam when I see or feel it.
Though Miriam thought that she gave me a practical gift (from her vacation in San Francisco) to ensure I always remembered my Iphone, but in reality it will be my way of thinking about her every day, and several times, having the comfort that there is in what we remember; in our Memory.
I also have items on my person, that remind me of my Wife, my Eldest Daughter, my Son as well as my Mother, Father and two Brothers.
This memory technique, the solidification of memory (the recall of days now passed) by physical touch / association to provoke thought - (among other techniques) was noted in the book that Jonathan Spence wrote, based on the life of Matteo Ricci; the same book that Thomas Harris told me about; the same book that helped him flesh out the character of Dr Hannibal Lecter - his remarkable memory.
So as I pondered upon the comment my eldest daughter Sophia said last night as we battled traffic adversity 'Dad, you're 'Weird' and which my Wife added 'Yes, you do think in a weird way' - I now smile, as I'm glad I think the way I do, for with our thoughts, we make the world as Buddha once conjectured and Rene Descartes confirmed, for 'I think, therefore I am'
I like weird; enjoy your Sunday, and perhaps some of us may purchase a charcoal stick and draw an image, something that resonates, something from what we term a memory, of a day now passed, perhaps of that Duomo, that Dr Fell would later view after fleeing Baltimore - and perhaps we'll fold it and place in our wallets, to remind us of the beauty contained in this world; to protect our thoughts and distract them roaming over all that scares us in this random and weird place.
"Typhoid and Swans, Officer Starling, they come from the same place"
Dr Hannibal Lecter, Baltimore, Maryland
More information about THE MEMORY PALACE OF MATTEO RICCI by Jonathan D Spence available Here


  1. SleuthFest 2018

    Dear Ali Karim,

    Would you include information about SleuthFest for your readers on your blog?

    SleuthFest is a writers’ conference sponsored annually by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. 2018 will be its 24nd year.

    2018’s Keynote is Andrew Gross, the Forensic Guest of Honor is Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D. The Guest Authors are James R. Benn, Hallie Ephron, Kristy Montee (PJ Parrish), and Hank Phillippi Ryan.

    All the Guests of Honor will be giving intensive workshops and participating in panels and other sessions.

    While SleuthFest’s emphasis is on writing mystery/thrillers/suspense, over the years, it has become one of the best conferences for writers of all genres. There are four tracks of workshops, presentations, and panels in writing craft, business & marketing, and forensics.

    Other features are the annual Freddie Awards for Writing. There are cocktail parties, a raffle, informal mingling and pitch sessions with top agents and editors.

    For many writers, SleuthFest is where they met their agent or editor. Unique to SleuthFest is the Strategy Sessions with professionals. Attendees can arrange for one-on-one time to ask about issues pertaining to their manuscript.

    SleuthFest 2018 will take place March 1-4 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Boca Raton, Florida. More information can be found on the website at, or contact Victoria Landis & Michael Joy, our Co-Chairs, at

    Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Philip Butera
    SleuthFest Publicity Co-Ordinator
    561 445 7784

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