THE MORE I LOOK at the topic of memory, the more I realise how many avenues, how many side streets there are. (I almost compared these to dendrites on a neuron – which shows what I busy my brain over these days!) This is especially true when talking to people. I mention to people I am writing a book about memory, or more specifically the role of memory in faith, and they come back with some really interesting thoughts and questions. I chatted with two old friends earlier this week – and conversation with one led to the topics of story telling and of severe memory loss (in reference to forms of dementia). The other asked the question: what about memories you want to forget? (I.e. how to deal with bad memories.) Strangely enough, I’d been typing up some thoughts on that very topic only the day before.
All these things fascinate me. There have rarely been any topics that have fascinated me as much as this one; I’m not sure an ‘idea’ has ever held so much staying power in my mind before. But I know I cannot cover everything in this book. I want to recognise the issues involved, while acknowledging the limits of my subtopic, if that makes sense.
The book focuses on the importance of remembering in the life of faith (looking at the role of memory both in biblical times and today) and the flipside of this – the problems of forgetting. And I suppose the book does focus on forgetfulness – recognising the damage and distress it can cause, looking at how our memories are so essential to questions of identity – another point I emphasise throughout the book. Within that I recognise the distress for those who lose memory through degenerative illness, but I cannot make this a primary focus. I also refer in one chapter about the power of our memories – and the potential mastery of ‘bad memories’. So far, that chapter is more reflective than anything else – asking questions without rushing in with clumsy answers.
At the moment I’m doing a lot of science related research, learning about how our brains work, what memory is (itself a matter of disagreement for many) and how we store and experience memory. I know this is will not be a major element of the book but it is essential to have this in the background, underpinning my paragraphs and ensuring I don’t write anything…well, dopey.
I described it recently in an email to a friend as a many tentacled thing, and that is what it feels like. There are a lot of tentacles, but I adore my topic. My problem is that I can’t work out how much time to spend on the book and how much to spend on one off article writing…although I’m considering using the ‘tentacles’ as topics for articles, too. It seems sensible to make the research fuel more than one area, and that way I don’t feel disloyal to either form of writing.
Finally, I am trying to work out how to build a ‘platform’ for the book when I do start trying to get it published. I suppose related articles (and frequent blog bashing) is good place to start!