Sunday, July 20, 2014


"I have been thinking about existence lately.  In fact, I have been so full of admiration for existence that I have hardly been able to enjoy it properly."  (Marilynne Robinson, Gilead)

Sometimes I think the greatest argument for immortality is the fallibility of human memory.  The fact of forgetfulness seems, to me, proof enough that life on earth cannot be the pinnacle of human achievement.  If this were all there was, don't you think we'd remember it better?  I'm not talking about forgetting to return my library books, I'm talking about my inability to remember with perfect clarity the most important days and moments and interactions I ever hope to have.  My wedding day?  A blur of ivory lace and rust-colored flowers, pearls and lemonade and too-high heels and hugs from new relatives.  The babyhood of my firstborn child, which I was sure was diamond-strong and precious enough to last, has dissipated into fog and every laugh and coo and sleepy smile from this new little one I can feel vanishing from memory almost as fast as it comes.  I can't remember all I see, and I can't even see everything there is to see!  I can't stare at husband and children individually every minute, and catch every passing expression and emotion and word.  I can't, I can't, and then it's all such a waste.

This problem is the subject of one of my favorite passages from what just might be my favorite book of all time:
"'One more sun,' sighed the king at evening, 'and now another darkness.  This has to stop.  The days fly past us as if they were racing pigeons.  We may as well be pebbles, for all the notice life takes of us or we of it.  No one holds in mind the blind harper when he is gone.  No one commemorates the girl who grains the geese.  none of the deeds of our people leave the least tiny mark upon time.  Where's the sense in running a kingdom if it all just piffles off into air?  Tell me that, whoever can.'
'Why is it that the moon keeps better track of itself than we manage to?  And the seasons put us to shame, they always know which they are , who's been, whose turn now, who comes next, all that sort of thing.  Why can't we have memories as humble as those?  Tell me that, whoever can.'
'Oblivion has been the rule too long.  What this kingdom needs in the time to come is some, umm, some blivion.  There, that's it, we need to become a more blivious people.  Enough of this forgettery.  But how to do it, it will take some doing.  What's to be done?  Tell me that, whoever can.'"
(from Dancing at the Rascal Fair by Ivan Doig)

Today was our last Sunday in our ward, before we move.  I spent most of it looking around the room and trying to memorize faces and thinking about what I'd learned from people and wondering if I'd remember them long.  Some I know I will, others I suppose will gradually recede until they become people whose faces, though once important, lie so long unused in my memory that even when needed and dusted off they can never really be recalled with their original clarity.  The talks today were on love.  The First and Great Commandments, loving God and loving our fellow men.  And it struck me then that perhaps loving our fellow men is the hardest thing we're asked to do.  Not hard because it's always so difficult, but hard because to love someone is to open oneself up to pain and loss, to make oneself unbearably vulnerable.  We are commanded to love like God loves, and yet live in a temporal and mortal world, governed by time and circumstance and natural laws and death and separation.  The achievement of this commandment comes at great sacrifice.  The more you love, the harder is the eventual and certain loss.  But.  The reward for success in this life, success at fulfilling this commandment and all others, is an absolute recompense for the losses sustained in God's service.  God loves perfectly, and, all things are present to Him.  He remembers perfectly, if you can call it that in Heavenly terms.  I'm sure that comes with its own share of pain, but a perfect being with perfect love must have many happy memories to reflect upon.  My idea of Heaven, and sometimes what I think is my greatest desire for the life hereafter, is to achieve God's memory--to be outside time, to have all my happy earth memories returned to me in full perfection and thus become whole.

Another favorite passage from another favorite book:
"I feel sometimes as if I were a child who opens its eyes on the world once and sees amazing things it will never know any names for and then has to close its eyes again.  I know this is all mere apparition compared to what awaits us, but it is only lovelier for that.  There is a human beauty in it.  And I can't believe that, when we have all been changed and put on incorruptibility, we will forget our fantastic condition of mortality and impermanence, the great bright dream of procreating and perishing that meant the whole world to us.  In eternity this world will be Troy, I believe, and all that has passed here will be the epic of the universe, the ballad they sing in the streets.  Because I don't imagine any reality putting this one in the shade entirely, and I think piety forbids me to try." (Marilynne Robinson, Gilead).

And that's all I have to say about that right now.  

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