Memories of the Timeless
What happens when you have something in your hand, you know right where you’re going to put it, and then something happens between where you were going and your arrival. Then when you go to look for whatever it was you had it isn’t where you were going to put it. Ever happen to you? The mind is an interesting organ, it can process your ears hearing Widor’s Toccata, (see what I did there? snort), process your eyes seeing cars and trucks and motorcycles while staying in the appropriate lane and perhaps noticing the speed limit. All the while it puts together the directions of how to get where you’re going and what route you want to take either shortest or maybe most scenic. All the while imagining or planning what you need to do when you get to your destination. So it can do all that, and it can’t remember where you put something that you were carrying from one room to the next… because someone started talking to you, or you noticed something on t.v. or you stumbled over a cat, or you saw something else that you needed to move and the original thing just disappears.
I’m sometimes asked how I remember my sermon manuscripts in my head. Legit question given my tendency to misplace keys, sunglasses, and antique music devices – more on those later. The only way I can describe what happens is that I tend to see the words on the page of my manuscript in my head as I’m preaching. And no they are not archived so that I can pull them up and give them again at a moment’s notice. God knew better than to have that happen for the people of the world to be o.k. It’s like that with a lot of books, I remember what I read because I can see on the page that particular paragraph, most especially with books I like. I know, weird, right?
People who study stuff say we use but an extremely small part of our actual brain capacity. That’s probly pretty helpful given that if it increased, we might never be able to rest. Random helpful hint, if I can’t go to sleep I play reruns of a tv show I like (NCIS anyone?) in my head, and I usually fall asleep before it’s over, you’re welcome if it works. Counting sheep never worked for me.
It’s also intriguing what our brains choose to sift through out of our past experiences to hang on to and what they choose to let go that we don’t remember. A classmate or family member tells us we were part of something that happened, and they even remember how we responded, yet we may have little if any recollection of it. I sometimes wonder if that’s what affects our general attitude or state of being most of the time. If we choose to remember more positive than negative occurrences, are we more positive in general? Or does our general state determine that which is most vivid in our memories?
The scriptures are really all of the above and more. Wait, what? Allow me a sharp right turn here. We know the stories in the bible were oral history passed on from generation to generation for hundreds of years before they were written down. Who remembered them and how they were remembered is miraculous to me. From the stories of Moses’ life and the Exodus to Jeremiah and Isaiah, to even Ruth and Esther – the only biblical books named for women at a time when women were not accepted in any leadership roles at all. And then that we have four gospels, four unique yet similar perspectives on the life of Jesus, all included in their contrasting perspectives according to the writers and what they particularly remembered. My love and awe of them continues in how timeless the essential relationship between God and humanity is revealed when we allow them to reach beyond the literal time and place in history to the spiritual nature of who we are together.
Why the brain interest today? I suppose it might have to do with three things in the last day and a half that I’ve put somewhere, and I literally have no idea where. I remember seeing them, I remember where they were initially when I decided to move them, and now I have nothing but a blank slate trying to think where in the world I could have put them – sunglasses, I-pod (yes, I still have one of those old-timey music devices), and my fitbit which, since beginning this, was found laying on the floor in the entryway to my house. No, I have no earthly idea why.
Then there are the random things I have thought about today that I always remember nearly without fail – my sister’s birthday coming up, because she’s always older than me so that works. The hymn “Here I Am, Lord” page 593 in the UM Hymnal. My telephone number from before I was in kindergarten “Normandy 9 – 2189” on the party line. I know right? It’s so random.
Maybe that’s what makes life so interesting. How our brains process so much information that comes at us, actually literally faster now than any other time in history. I wonder sometimes if what our young people are going through right now has to do with overload. The complexity of trying to sift through life experiences, screen images and information in such mass quantity that all things pale in the face of it, then add a pandemic, politics, race and any other hot-buttons and we simply get pushed to the edge, or sometimes beyond the edge.
I hope we’re still praying the Covenant Prayer in the Wesleyan tradition on Sunday nights and the Prayer of St. Francis on Monday mornings. I believe when we have “go-to’s”, maybe even memorized, that can help still our minds and strengthen our souls.
Someday I will likely run across the things I have “misplaced.” I’ll pause a moment and ask myself why in the world I ended up putting them there. And then I’ll go on to the next thing and maybe watch another rerun of NCIS.