Remembering

Nov 13, 2013 | Field Notes

There is, at this time of year, a way in which the sun stipples the bottom of the rainclouds that roll in over the Pacific Ocean. The result is a mixture of wet foreboding and patches of light that cast a particular shade of hope over the city. Particularly on days like today, when there is a warmth in the air here in Vancouver, we can experience such days as another gift of lingering autumn. Nature herself participates in this gifting which sets the tone for this month of remembering.

Why do we remember certain events and people and forget others? What is the filter that exists in our memory that helps us to retain what we understand as important and drop what is unimportant? We cannot remember every single event, every single experience of every single day. So, we do need to sift and to store our experiences. That is what memories do, usually along two vectors, the personal and the communal. In both vectors the memories that are retained are judged as somehow worthy of keeping and passing on. The judgment is based on the values we hold and the assessment that somehow the experience to be remembered holds those values. So, through memory, our values, both personal and communal, are kept alive and assist us in living into our future. To me this is the essential significance of memory: it opens me to the future.

Do all the memories serve life? No, obviously not. Some memories are simply too painful to serve life. These require a special salve, sometimes a salve that only the Holy can provide. Indeed, there are areas of memory that must be lifted to the Holy for only the Holy can hear and heal such wounds. This is part of the work of remembering that too often is overlooked in our world. Such work often requires silence, a neglected ingredient in our world today. Perhaps this is why silence, when it is given space in our lives, like during the Remembrance Day ceremonies, speaks so loudly to us. In silence we are more able to allow the Holy to be a salve for our memories.

There is a holy light in everything. Sometimes this light is only a lighter shade of darkness. Sometimes this light is hidden behind the shapes and colors of our world. Sometimes this light is but a faint glow wrapping around memories that are too hard to hold. Still, it is present. The November sunlight painting the clouds overhead remind me of this presence. So, as the days grow shorter and the skies heavier with rain clouds, I give thanks for memories, and for the Holy who sustains me.

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