I’ve been very slowly (it’s been since early August) reading a really interesting book entitled The Queer Art of Failure. In one of the chapters, the author discusses the concept of memory and forgetting. I’ve been letting this roll over me for a little while, engaging in my own understanding of the importance of remembering and, perhaps even more important, forgetting. And here’s what I’ve come up with, so far.
I’m a grasper. When I’ve come to some profound realization about the world, the universe, myself, etc, I try to hold tightly to it. I am desperate to not forget. I write down whatever I can so that I can hold on to. I talk about it. I mark it down; tell myself “That’s it! Remember that!” I think that if I can just hold on to it, just remember forever that insight, I won’t have to go through the sometimes-painful process of learning it again in a different way.
And yet, I (almost) always forget. Really. I have a pretty stellar memory (thanks Mom!) and yet every year when the mountains get covered in that first solid snowfall, I forget how beautiful winter here is. And every spring, I forget how green everything gets. And I think I’m starting to learn that that’s the point. We forget over and over again so that we can remember over and over again. So we can have those moments of clarity, recognition, appreciation and gratitude. Perhaps we forget, so we don’t take the knowing for granted. And remembering often happens in lots of different ways, with lots of different triggers. Something completely different from the initial circumstance can teach me the same lesson and I get to learn it again. And I get to see the universality of that lesson.
Case in point, it’s amazing the multitude of opportunities that arise in my life to remind me of the lesson about unconditional love and forgiveness for myself. Seriously. I’m starting to think that’s at the root of everything.
Perhaps the joy in forgetting is that we get to remember again. We leave, so that we are able to come home again. We go away, so that at some point we return to open arms. And maybe we are different in our homecoming, but the furniture hasn’t moved, the fire is still burning in the fireplace and there is still a comfortable seat on which to rest our souls. And it is a rest, because we don’t stay here, not really. We keep moving, keep learning, keep growing and changing and forgetting. You’re not done, no matter how old you are. But that place of remembering is there whether we’re resting in it or not. And that, that much I am certain of, regardless of whether or not I remember I’m certain I’m of it.