Thursday, 5 August 2010

Remembering not to forget

One of the depressing things about getting older is the realisation how little one actually KNOWS. The second depressing thing is realising how much one has forgotten. The third thing is sitting alone with the reality that one understands even less.
Unimportant as it may seem to most people, I used to know great CHUNKS of Shakespeare off by heart, I could quote poets and psalmists with equal ease. Now I struggle with a five line shopping list. I fret because I know this is not going to get better in the next decade, or in the one after that. There is a distressing inevitability washing over me – several bags of marbles have been lost irrevocably down a grate, never to be found again.
Crashing into middle age with failed brakes, I have bowed to the inevitability of mistakes, faux pas, senior moments and half remembered iambic pentameter.
Yet voices of the past, the sages, exhort us to train the collective memory:
“Be careful and watch yourselves closely, so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.”
That’s where I suspect we have gone wrong; 21st century living expects us to remember alone. We have allowed ourselves to be individualised into solitude, we don’t know how to throw memories around our crowded dinner tables and noisy communities, because we eat alone or don’t live intimately with our family and neighbours any more. Possibly the nearest we get is talking to our hairdresser every six weeks, or engaging a stranger on a train in conversation.
I don’t sleep as much as I used to – I am told this is another indicator of advancing age, but recently a psalm fragment wobbled towards me in the early hours and quoted itself.
“On my bed I remember you and think of you through the watches of the night.”
I was a relief that I could at least remember my Maker, even if the ingredients for tomorrow’s dinner eluded me.


Robyn said...

ah... memories! I relate to the lack of them! which is why I am constantly teaching my kids in the firm hope that as my mind fails, theirs will be capable of taking over for me one day ... and alas, one answer to lack of intimate living, is to stop 'working'. The non-work I do at home every day ensures a steady stream of folk to talk with on a deeper level, so much so, that I try to 'ration' my interaction time to manageable levels. The problem is there are too few of us doing nothing but running a house - too few to go round for all the lonely, sick, house-bound or otherwise marginalised folk who don't 'work'.
(And Jane, I hope you know me well enough to know this isn't a personal diatribe against you ... just some reflection on what you're saying, in the spirit of healthy maybe even Jewish-style debate!) Shalom! - Robyn

Arija said...

Yours is a common complaint these days and spreading like a virus in the human contact void of our computer age.
A great booster for memory is imply walking and observing the beauty around you for half an hour each day. Once you get into the swing of it you will find it very rewarding. It not only stimulates the circulation but also actually is a restorative for memory function as well. If you are happy as you walk you will also be smiling which generates smiles in return and as you see the same people more often in passing, you may find a friend or two as a bonus.
I too used to be able to declaim Shakespeare and a number of other poets in at least three languages, now I am glad to remember which book holds the treasure that once reposed in my brain and can look it up at need.
Happy hunting, we all have memories that matter.