November Theme: Memory

DonSense – by Rev. Don Garrett

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

Michael Piazza, a UCC minister, once addressed a gathering of Unitarian Universalist minsters, acknowledging that his tradition was different from ours. He told us, “All Southerners know how to eat fried chicken. You enjoy the parts that taste good and leave the bones on your plate.” This turned out to be very good advice indeed. Despite a perspective that was securely rooted in traditional (if liberal) Christian theology, much of what he had to share was very, very nourishing, indeed – wise, even.

That’s kind of like the situation we face when we consider “memory.” After all, everything in our minds is a memory. We have memories of pleasant things, painful things, not to mention an abundance of irrelevant and just plain weird things. Why is that? Because most of us weren’t taught to eat only the nourishing parts of the fried chicken of life.

We may not have as much choice as we’d like when it comes to which experiences come our way, but we have more choice than we sometimes presume when it comes to which memories to save and cherish. A joyful memory is a wonderful thing. It can sustain us through difficult times and even inspire us to live from a place of joy as we inspire others in turn.

A painful memory cherished, though, can become a festering sore, a wound that won’t heal, a source of anger, resentment, or bitterness. Clinging to a painful memory can turn our lives into symphonies of negativity as we find disappointment and pain everywhere we look.

Consider this: our culture’s educational system is a program designed to install a certain set of mandated memories into our minds, memories intended to create a certain outlook and set of behavioral tendencies. But most cultures aren’t really all that wise when it comes to understanding what information and which memories are truly conducive to living the best, most fulfilling lives.

So, it falls upon us to do the work of finding the indigestible gristle and bones of our education and experience so we can put them back on the plate before they become toxic. Being a community of memory is about cultivating the collective wisdom as to what to cherish and what to discard so we can live fulfilling lives, inspiring and caring for one another as vital parts of our Beloved Community.

See you in church.
– Don