Posts tagged ‘memory’

July 18, 2015

to remember at least a few of the things most precious to us

For in this community the past was rarely discussed. I do not mean it was taboo. I mean that it had somehow faded into a mist as dense as that which hung over the marshes. It simply did not occur to these villagers to think about the past—even the recent one.

“…Do you suppose there’s any truth in it, Axl? What Ivor was saying last night about the mist, that it was God himself making us forget? …Perhaps God’s so deeply ashamed of us, of something we did, that he’s wishing himself to forget. And as the stranger told Ivor, when God won’t remember, it’s no wonder we’re unable to do so.”

“What on this earth could we have done to make God so ashamed?”

“I don’t know, Axl. But it’s surely not anything you and I ever did, for he’s always loved us well. If we were to pray to him, pray and ask for him to remember at least a few of the things most precious to us, who knows, he may hear and grant us our wish.”

From The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro.

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July 18, 2015

far too narrow an idea of what a vision might be

I believe that the old man did indeed have far too narrow an idea of what a vision might be. He may, so to speak, have been too dazzled by the great light of his experience to realize that an impressive sun shines on us all. Perhaps that is the one thing I wish to tell you. Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time.

From Gilead by Marilynne Robinson.

July 17, 2015

a creation every moment

For Preservation is a Creation; and more, it is a continued Creation, and a creation every moment.

From The Country Parson by George Herbert (1652 ed., chap. XXXIV) quoted in Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (111). Here are two other references to this theme by Robinson shortly afterward:

There’s a mystery in the thought of the re-creation of an old man as an old man, with all the defects and injuries of what is called long life faithfully preserved in him, and all their claims and all their tendencies honored, too, as in the steady progress of arthritis in my left knee. I have thought sometimes that the Lord must hold the whole of our lives in memory, so to speak. Of course He does. And “memory” is the wrong word, no doubt. But the finger I broke sliding into second base when I was twenty two years old is crookeder than ever, and I can interpret that fact as an intimate attention, taking Herbert’s view. [115]

…I always imagine divine mercy giving us back to ourselves and letting us laugh at what we became, laugh at the preposterous disguises of crouch and squint and limp and lour we all do put on. [117-118]

August 17, 2014

life without expectations

Living without expectations is hard but, whenever you can do it, good. Living without hope is harder, and that’s bad. You have got to have hope, and you mustn’t shirk it. Love, after all, “hopeth all things.” But maybe you must learn, and it is hard learning, not to hope out loud, especially for other people. You must not let your hope turn into expectation.

But whatever you hope, you will find out that you can’t bargain with your life on your own terms. It is always going to be proving itself worse or better than you hoped.

…Life without expectations was still life, and life was still good. The light that had lighted us into this world was lighting us through it. We loved each other and lived right on. We sat down to the food we had grown and ate it and praised it and were thankful for it. We suffered the thoughts of the nights and at dawn woke up and went back to work. The world that so often had disappointed us and made us sorrowful sometimes made us happy by surprise.

…For a while in the morning the world is perfect and beautiful. You think you will never forget. You think that you will never forget any of this, you will remember it always just the way it was. But you can’t remember it the way it was. To know it, you have to be living in the presence of it right as it is happening. It can return only by surprise.

From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (146-148).

August 12, 2014

like a damned employee

That was the harshest criticism he ever made of the children: “You’re acting like a damned employee.”

He quit saying such things after Margaret became an employee of her school board and Mattie an employee of his company and Caleb an employee of his university, but I know he kept thinking them. He wanted to be free himself, and he wanted his children to be free.

…One of the attractions of moving away into a life of employment, I think, is being disconnected and free, unbothered by membership. It is a life of beginnings without memories, but it is a life too that ends without being remembered. The life of membership with all its cumbers is traded away for life of employment that makes itself free by forgetting you clean as a whistle when you are not of any more use. When they get to retirement age, Margaret and Mattie and Caleb will be cast out of place and out of mind like worn-out replaceable parts, to be alone at the last maybe and soon forgotten.

“But the membership,” Andy said, “keeps memories even of horses and mules and milk cows and dogs.”

From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (132-134).

August 11, 2014

you know the ghosts are there when you see as they see

Ghosts attend such events. I don’t know how else to say it. This was 1967. Mr. Feltner had been dead for two years, and Virgil for twenty-two. You know the ghosts are there when you see as they see, not as they saw but as they see. You feel them with you, not as they were but as they are. I never shed a tear that day, but all day long I saw Margret as her father and her grandfather saw her. I loved her that day with my love but also theirs. …I saw her as as Virgil and Mr. Feltner saw her, and I thought I would perish with the knowledge of loss and of having.

From Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry (118-119).

August 2, 2013

a first city that remains implicit

From Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino:

“To distinguish the other cities’ qualities, I must speak of a first city that remains implicit. For me it is Venice.”

“…Memory’s images, once they are fixed in words, are erased,” Polo said. “Perhaps I am afraid of losing Venice all at once, if I speak of it. Or perhaps, speaking of other cities, I have already lost it, little by little.”

July 2, 2013

my life shall be a real life

Passages from Confessions (Book X) by Augustine of Hippo (including the passage from which Petrarch takes his inspiration in “The Ascent of Mount Ventoux” and also reminiscent in places of “Holy Sonnet XIV” by John Donne as well as “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins):

These things do I within, in that vast chamber of my memory. For there are near me heaven, earth, sea, and whatever I can think upon in them, besides those which I have forgotten. There also do I meet with myself, and recall myself—what, when, or where I did a thing, and how I was affected when I did it. There are all which I remember, either by personal experience or on the faith of others. Out of the same supply do I myself with the past construct now this, now that likeness of things, which either I have experienced, or, from having experienced, have believed; and thence again future actions, events, and hopes, and upon all these again do I meditate as if they were present.

…Great is this power of memory, exceeding great, O my God—an inner chamber large and boundless! Who has plumbed the depths thereof? Yet it is a power of mine, and appertains unto my nature; nor do I myself grasp all that I am. Therefore is the mind too narrow to contain itself. And where should that be which it does not contain of itself? Is it outside and not in itself? How is it, then, that it does not grasp itself? A great admiration rises upon me; astonishment seizes me. And men go forth to wonder at the heights of mountains, the huge waves of the sea, the broad flow of the rivers, the extent of the ocean, and the courses of the stars, and omit to wonder at themselves.

…But where in my memory do You abide, O Lord? Where do You there abide? What manner of chamber have You there formed for Yourself? What sort of sanctuary have You erected for Yourself? You have granted this honour to my memory, to take up Your abode in it; but in what quarter of it You abide, I am considering. …You are the Lord God of the mind; and all these things are changed, but You remain unchangeable over all, yet vouchsafe to dwell in my memory, from the time I learned You. But why do I now seek in what part of it You dwell, as if truly there were places in it? You dwell in it assuredly, since I have remembered You from the time I learned You, and I find You in it when I call You to mind.

Where, then, did I find You, so as to be able to learn You? For You were not in my memory before I learned You. Where, then, did I find You, so as to be able to learn You, but in You above me? Place there is none; we go both backward and forward (Job 23:8) and there is no place. Everywhere, O Truth, do You direct all who consult You, and at once answer all, though they consult You on various things. Clearly do You answer, though all do not with clearness hear. All consult You upon whatever they wish, though they hear not always that which they wish. He is Your best servant who does not so much look to hear that from You which he himself wishes, as to wish that which he hears from You.

Too late did I love You, O Fairness, so ancient, and yet so new! Too late did I love You! For behold, You were within, and I without, and there did I seek You; I, unlovely, rushed heedlessly among the things of beauty You made. You were with me, but I was not with You. Those things kept me far from You, which, unless they were in You, were not. You called, and cried aloud, and forced open my deafness. You gleamed and shine, and chase away my blindness. You exhaled odours, and I drew in my breath and do pant after You. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for Your peace.

When I shall cleave unto You with all my being, then shall I in nothing have pain and labour; and my life shall be a real life, being wholly full of You. But now since he whom Thou fillest is the one Thou liftest up, I am a burden to myself, as not being full of You. Joys of sorrow contend with sorrows of joy; and on which side the victory may be I know not. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. My evil sorrows contend with my good joys; and on which side the victory may be I know not. Woe is me! Lord, have pity on me. Woe is me! Lo, I hide not my wounds; You are the Physician, I the sick.

June 23, 2013

the sight of monsters walking among them

Now the sight of monsters walking among them seemed as normal as the seagulls that swooped and chattered in the air above the city.

From page 127 of Andrew Peterson’s On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness: Adventure. Peril. Lost Jewels. And the Fearsome Toothy Cows of Skree.

The book spines looked richer somehow in the lantern’s glow, and Janner thought of Oskar’s words at the start of the day: “Look around you, lad. This is the best of old Skree. Or at least, it’s what’s left of it.” …What Oskar had preserved was the memory of a world that had passed away as surely as Esben Igiby had passed away.

From pages 92 and 86 of the same book by Andrew Peterson.

October 21, 2012

a tender young lamb’s summer afternoon

From The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander in The Chronicles of Prydain, Book 2, Chapter 14 (“The Price”):

“You make sport of us,” Taran cried angrily. “The price you ask is beyond what any of us can pay.”

Orddu hesitated. “Possibly you’re right,” she admitted. “Well, then, something a little more personal. I have it!” she said, beaming at Taran. “Give us—give us the nicest summer day you can remember! You can’t say that’s hard, since it belongs to you!”

“Yes,” Orwen said eagerly. “A lovely summer afternoon full of sunlight and sleepy scents.”

“There’s nothing so sweet,” murmured Orgoch, sucking a tooth, “as a tender young lamb’s summer afternoon.”

“How can I give you that?” protested Taran. “Or any other day, when they’re—they’re inside of me somewhere? You can’t get them out! I mean…”

“We could try,” Orgoch muttered.

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