Memory and God

DSC00945Do This in Remembrance of Me

From: The Way We Were
Memories, light the corners of my mind
Misty watercolor memories of the way we were.
Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind
smiles we gave to one another
for the way we were.
Can it be that it was all so simple then
or has time erased every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
tell me would we? Could we?
Memories, may be beautiful and yet
what’s too painful to remember
we simply choose to forget

Read more: Barbara Streisand – The Way We Were Lyrics | MetroLyrics

What happens when we can’t remember? When we find that we are not our memories gathered over a lifetime? We each have our own gallery of “misty watercolor memories” that line the hallways of our minds. Like the lyric of the song, some things we remember because they are beautiful and poignant, while others we would rather forget because they haunt our present with images of the past. Sometimes we can choose to forget while other times the power of self-editing our memories is beyond our control. And for others who have some kind of disease that causes memory loss, their memories gathered over a lifetime come and go in fragments, vanish when least expected, and often disappear when most desired.

I am baffled about what our memory really is and why we often call illnesses like dementia an illness of the mind. Where is our mind? Is it encased in our brains? Or does it extend into the environment around us? Or is it buried deep within us and memories come to consciousness through our bodies that are part of our minds? Maybe our memories are our body-selves, both embedded within, under, and around us. For those who can’t recall a memory, or forget who they are in the present moment, maybe they still have not “lost their minds” for their bodies will surely recall in some capacity who they are and the connections that they know through the touch of a hand, a song that they memorized, the smells of foods that they love, or the image of a loved one that hangs on their wall. Or maybe our minds are extended through the relationships that we have—with others who remember for us, through the objects that we use to write and orient ourselves. I think our mind extends and embodies ourselves in ways that are much more than our brains, than our selves alone. Our minds are body-selves in relationship with other body-selves, and ultimately re-membered by the God who suffers and remembers all our losses.

Do this in remembrance of me has taken on new meaning for me. The sacramental touch, fragrance, taste, sight, and sound of God literally re-members the way that our body-selves have been dis-membered, whether that is through illness, time, disengagement, or disconnection. To be remembered by God is to know that whether or not we can remember is not the point—for even if we can’t tell our own story, or we forget what it is, God knows our story and our story is part of God’s. We are called to tell the stories of others whose memory has failed them. We become each other’s memories when we do for each other what God does in memory of all God’s creatures.

The rituals and remembrances, practices and places of our Christian faith become remembered in our body-selves through the way we embody them. God’s incarnation literally re-minds us whose we are even when we forget.

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1 Response to Memory and God

  1. I really respond to this. It is profound and requires reflection to plumb its depths. I keep thinking of my wrestling with the “body spiriting.”. And, of course, the extended mind. And God’s re-membering us as we re-member God in Christ. Where does spirit come from? Remembering Nicodemus. In the sacrament of re-membering, Jesus struggled with his body, where it took him, where he took it–and the agony of body/mind/spirit. We struggle with the bread and wine and how it transfers his body/mind/spirit to our bodies/minds/spirits. This all defies our comprehension, but we do “get” it.

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