Oh, for a beautiful memory!

Oh, for a beautiful memory! June 20, 2014

Somewhere at the tail-end of trying to memorize a poem…

there lives the dearest freshness deep down things…

…it strikes me that memory is not, contrary to popular description, “like storing information on a computer.” Computer-storage is like whatever memory is.

Computers store, but do not memorize, for our memories do not sit discreetly as Microsoft Word files in the corner of some tidied desktop, waiting to be accessed. They leaps into our hearts. They invade our minds, unasked for. Memory is not a “saved” thing, curled up and dried like a packet of sea-monkeys, waiting to be dredged into existence by the life-giving double-click. Memory is a living thing.

So I am laboring over these lines…

and though the last lights off the black west went / oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward springs…

…the tumultuous gorgeous lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins, not merely to impress women, but also to whittle a section of my brain-space into the shape of these words, that they might leap into my heart throughout the workaday day. That, faced with death, boredom, and stress, there would well up not an abstract, bitter anxiety but a “Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee, / nor untwist, slack they may be, these last threads of man in me / nor say I cannot / I can!” Oh, for a beautiful memory! I want words, up from the darkness like fresh food growing from seeds I planted, like soup-kitchens in times of famine. (And there’s no way that last bit of Hopkins is verbatim, but I can’t google it in the midst of praising memory! I’d just hate myself.)

We choose what goes into our stomachs with care, though our digestive systems will pass what is not good for us out as waste. How much more, then, should we contemplate, deliberate, and labor in choosing what goes into our minds, where what goes in sticks? But, as it turns out, we eat organic carrots and watch porn — happy hipsters, all. My memory, at the very least, is not yet a wellspring of nourishment for the journey. Somewhere inside me, as if cranially carved, I carry the opening verse to “Baby Got Back,” the entire dialogue of “The Big Lebowski,” and several scarring scenes from a Twilight movie (don’t ask (alright, fine, the one where the vampire baby is eating the (vampire?) mom before werewolf-guy starts hitting on the newborn matricidal vampire baby. (All while everyone is looking surly and drinking blood juiceboxes))).

“You know,” the Church says, “I could have told you this already. As with everything else, I am your salvation from the mediocrity of an age that allows the trends and attractions to mold the mind whichever way they will. I have given you the Psalms, the Divine Office — I have made my prayers prayers of repetition, daily, cyclical, breaking into your consciousness like waves, shaping you as water shapes the rock, that in difficult times there would spring, not the lyrics to songs you don’t even like, or the scenes from movies that make you despair, but “God, come to my assistance / Lord, make haste to help me!” and that in joyful times, instead blankly referencing pop culture, you would say, as if I were speaking in you, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good / For his love endures forever.” My ritual shapes men — therefore, pray, and pray regularly, that on your deathbed your mind might have such a consistency as to make Heaven and your head unoffensive to each other.”

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