Oct 24 2018

November Journal – In Our Own Voices: What does it mean to be a People of Memory?

Published by at 6:04 pm under Minister's Musings

In Our Own Voices

November 2018: What does it mean to be a People of Memory?

The Practice of Honest Remembrance

and Honoring All Our Ancestors and Predecessors

on Whose Shoulders We Rest

“In Our Own Voices” captures congregants’ thoughts and feelings on the theme of the month. This year, our Worship Associates offer their first responses to each theme. May these words inspire you, too, to ask:

  • How does this theme relate to my life?
  • What does it inspire in me?
  • How does it trouble or perplex me?
  • How can it help us to live our Unitarian Universalist faith?

Memory as Central to Our Being

  • Memory defines us and how we view others. It structures the patterns for our day.
  • Honest remembrance is a foundation for learning how to be, to love, and to exist.
  • The more honestly we seek to remember, the more honor we give to the remembered.
  • Let us use honest remembrance to support ourselves. When we made decisions that turned out to be bad ones, let us remember what we knew at the time. We may have been confused. We may have not had all the facts. We are human.

Changing Memories and Revisionist History

  • The process of remembering changes the memory. Is that a bad thing? Could we think of this process of remembering like alchemy transforming it into something more meaningful (gold)? That same process of change could produce lead—a memory that is self-serving, editing out the bad and keeping only what keeps us static and self-satisfied.
  • Revisionist history: how people mis-remember and how each person has a different set of memories of the same event
  • Was there an “honest” remembrance of Fr. Junipero Serra when he was canonized?
  • In our personal lives: changing the story depending on what happened later
  • When people die, people often tend to put them on a pedestal so high they are not recognizable! Or people focus on the good and tend to forget the less pleasant aspects of the lives and personalities of the deceased.

Learning from the Past

  • The African concept of Sankofa—moving forward while simultaneously returning to the past to bring forward valuable lessons. The concept of Sankofa is illustrated by a bird who flies forward while looking backwards, holding a precious egg in its mouth.
  • The New York Times offers obituaries of women who were all but forgotten and ignored.
  • What do we gain from working to remember? Bringing to consciousness, fresh air and sunlight … Getting rid of leftovers in the back of the fridge …

Unitarian Universalist History

  • I would like to hear more about Unitarian Universalist forbears on a regular basis (and not just the ones we hear about so often—Emerson, Thoreau, etc.). It would be so wonderful if everyone could hear about our history from Rev. Cat Cox, who did a fascinating series of presentations on UU history at the Leadership School I attended.
  • Focusing on the history of our past Unitarian Universalist leaders would be inspirational. What is “honest” remembering anyway? Why is this word used? I am guessing that it’s because some of our Unitarian Universalist history and other history have been whitewashed over time and no longer reflect the reality of the times.
  • Why does it matter that we acknowledge and share the truth about our religion’s (and our congregation’s) past injustices to people and communities of color? What do we learn now from looking at the past?

Memory as Healing—and as Traumatic

  • This is a loaded topic for many of us who have very negative childhood memories. Looking at our own pasts through the lens of age and experience could be very healing. And it could be a minefield for some folks and would need careful handling. Some shoulders are hard to acknowledge even if they did exist. Much pastoral input would be needed.
  • Looking back at early sources of feelings in our lives. For example, what is the youngest I can remember feeling shame?

The Science of Memory

  • It might be interesting to look into the science of memory. Much work has been done on this subject.
  • The amazing function of the mind. How does it possibly work?

Muscle Memory and Intentionality

  • How have I gotten by without intentionality? It’s like proprioception—“the unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself” (dictionary.com). We do something without conscious thought but with muscle memory.
  • In music lessons, I had very little conscious thought about the instruction I was being given, but it must have gotten through to my memory anyway, because I improved and people seemed to think I was doing well. It’s perplexing how that can be. For example, I don’t remember ever thinking, “Okay, I’m coming close to the frog of the bow, so I need to lighten up the pressure.” Nor did I ever think, “This needs to be louder, so I need to press more with my index finger and bring the bow closer to the bridge.” I just learned to do it. Did that actually set up a pattern in me that worked well in the violin/ viola setting but not so well in others? Did I come to believe I didn’t have to work consciously to learn?

Losing Memory

  • Losing memory for those of us that are approaching or have reached our senior years is scary. Could our companions on our journey care for us by remembering that which we don’t want to forget?

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