This post orginally appeared at BIGBible.org.uk.
When anybody mentions memory, my ears prick up. It’s my pet topic – I’m writing a book about the importance of remembering in faith – and it fascinates me. But when you type ‘memory’ into Google or Amazon you are just as likely to get results about digital memory – memory sticks, RAM, memory capacity on your computer or another device – than actual organic memory.
Memory in storage
The way we store information has changed. As with many things, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this. We have an enormous amount of information at our fingertips – and having the tools to store, categorise and retrieve it is very valuable.
But do we remember what is important? Do we bother committing things to our own memories when we have so much to do it for us? Have we muddled up the reminders – the things that trigger memory – with memories themselves?
If you took away all of your reminders, your places where you ‘outsource’ your memory (to use the technospeak), what would you be left with? What would you struggle to remember?
Remembering what’s important
I’m frequently struck with how little I remember of the things that are truly important to me – they get sideswiped, overwhelmed by all the other ‘stuff’ of life. But I assume I will remember them! I assume I will never forget certain experiences…I carry on taking note of needing to feed the fish or making a dental appointment but do I remember the actions of God in my life – really remember? Or do I simply have it in my mind ‘somewhere’ – occasionally fishing it out to give it an airing?
In the Old Testament, the Israelites are commanded not to forget God and what he has done for them. This isn’t just a tick-box task, but was supposed to impact their daily lives. Remembering God informed their identity, their character, the way they behaved towards one another. Forgetting God meant putting other things – idols – in his place, and behaving in a way contrary to his commands. Forgetfulness was fatal to their identity and their calling.
Culture and context
How do we learn from this now, in a culture that relies more and more on other mediums to do our remembering for us? Do we bother re-visiting our memories, or do we just assume they’re stored somewhere? What happens when we have a dramatic encounter with God? Do we remember it – consciously recall it – in a way that influences our lives? How can we harness the power of technology to help us remember, without putting it in the place of memory itself?
Of course, in order to store memories properly, we need to have given our full attention in the first place…more of that in another post!
Do I bother improving my memory?
When I do, what is it I am trying to gain from it – am I trying not to forget where I put my hairbrush, or am I trying to remember God’s work and grace in my life?