(I liked 2007, but I will still on New Year's Eve be envisioning my 2008 to be so much better. Yay, American optimism!) From Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life:
If the incident with the madeline cheers the narrator, it is because it helps him realize that it isn’t his life that has been mediocre so much as the image of it he possessed in memory. It is a key Proustian distinction, as therapeutically relevant in his case as it was for the Chardin young man:
The reason why life may be judged to be trivial although at certain moments it seems to us so beautiful is that we form our judgment, ordinarily, not on the evidence of life itself but of those quite different images which preserve nothing of life—and therefore we judge it disparagingly.
These poor images arise out of our failure to register a scene properly at the time, and hence to remember anything of its reality thereafter. Indeed, Proust suggests that we have a better chance of generating vivid images of our past when our memory is involuntarily jogged by a madeline, a long-forgotten smell, or an old glove, than when we voluntarily and intellectually attempt to evoke it.
Voluntary memory, the memory of the intellect and the eyes, [gives] us only imprecise facsimiles of the past which no more resemble it than pictures by bad painters resemble the spring… So we don’t believe that life is beautiful because we don’t recall it, but if we get a whiff of a long forgotten smell we are suddenly intoxicated, and similarly we think we no longer love the dead, because we don’t remember them, but if by chance we come across an old glove we burst into tears.