Saturday, March 26, 2011
We are all myth-makers, constructing the truth of who we are – who we have been – from events and facts handed down, or errantly observed, partially forgotten, reshaped in memory, but doggedly believed – insisted – to be true.
Things, we say, are clearer in retrospect. So we think. I’ve found, over the years, that my memories of events are not always shared by others who were party to them. The little ducky dish that I remembered belonging to both my brother and I, he recalls was mine alone. In reality, clarity, in retrospect, carries the paradoxical hazard of time induced accretions and deletions, adding to and taking from the original memory each time it is brought to mind.
The world is awash in memoirs, and here I am, adding to the flood with these daily reminiscences on my blog. Good memoirs – the ones we like to read – make claim to perfect vision of the past and clear understanding of the connections between cause and effect. I make no such claim for the things I recall. I can only say, “This is the way I remember it.”
But it is human to remember, to connect, to relate. By remembering, we keep the past alive, not as a thing that once was, and is no more, nor as a thing that once was as we recall it to have been, but as a thing that is, now, and that continues to inform and influence who we are.
C.S. Lewis beautifully described the power of remembered events in the words of Hyoi, the hross, who befriended Ransom on the planet Malacandra in Out of the Silent Planet.
A pleasure is full grown only when it is remembered. You are speaking, Hman, as if the pleasure were one thing and the memory another. It is all one thing. The seroni [another intelligent creature on the planet Malacandra] could say it better than I say it now. Not better than I could say it in a poem. What you call remembering is the last part of the pleasure, as the crah [recitation] is the last part of a poem. When you and I met, the meeting was over very shortly, it was nothing. Now it is growing something as we remember it. But still we know very little about it. What it will be when I remember it as I lie down to die, what it makes me in all my days till then—that is the real meaning. The other is only the beginning of it. You say you have poets in your world. Do they not teach you this? (C.S. Lewis, Out of the Silent Planet, MacMillan Paperbacks Edition, 1965, p 73)
Things remembered will not take their final form until we “lie down to die”, and what they make us “in all the days till then,” is what really matters.
An Ode to Memory
by Jim Rapp
There is only one road to travel,
The ever-unfolding, well-worn path called "now".
Standing on the high precipice
Of the eternal moment,
The unknown looms ahead,
A wispy, wishful construct, shaped to resemble
Cherished memories from the past.
The once-known, once-held, once-cherished
Lies behind us, muted mounds
Of all we've had, and said, and done.
As now crumbles
Under the weight of our mortality,
We cling to faith for this moment,
Hope for some tomorrow,
And draw comfort
From what used to be.
all that's left of everything.