Saturday, September 10, 2011

Remembering vs. Remembrance

As important as it is to remember, I am not sure that it counts as remembrance. And may, actually, get in the way of remembrance. Remembrance requires a certain distance, a certain separation, a certain space to allow for reflection, for soaking, for engagement. Remembering doesn’t allow much of that. Remembering is insistent, directive, pointed. Even though it is personal, in the age of media driven remembering, it is objective in the extreme. Almost voyeuristic. We are looking in on memory. Or, really, on images that define memory. And those images are common – the same for everyone, except those actually present with their own eyes and ears.

Our remembering is shaped, as it was first formed, by a mosaic of oft-repeated images and sounds – a tower reaching into the clear blue September sky seeming to lean into the aid of its fatally wounded partner which has smoke pouring from the gaping wound that would eventually lead to its collapse. Then the collective gasp of those nearby as a shakey handheld video camera captures the second plane flying into the second tower. Towering billows of smoke and dust darken the sky throughout the day as a camera across the river captures the twin towers, each with their own mortal wound. Images of first reponders, covered with dust and grime, continuing to press in and out of the building – directing startled and stumbling office workers down what must have felt like miles of darkened staircases to the relative safety below. Finally, the damage sustained being too great to bear, the towers collapse sympathetically – moments apart. Men and women in suits and shoes more suitable for lunch at the top of the tower than for running who knew where, pursued by roiling clouds of smoke and dust taking over the streets. And so the images continue to pile up and up and up – the stuff of our remembering.

But looking at those same images over and over again, remembering, is not the same thing as remembrance any more than looking at news footage of an fatal accident over and over is the same as honor the loved ones lost. The latter requires an entering in, a slowing down and stopping. Not a relentless reminded remembering. If we are not careful, we will have remembered – that is, we will have recovered the images and lived them again. But will not have given pause for remembrance. For that, a long, slow silence is needed. Time and stillness to allow meaning to emerge, if it will, from the remembering. Time to soak into the deep mystery of unknowing, unillumined by remembering. Time to re-collect fragments, shards, broken pieces and let them arrange themselves into a mosaic of meaning. Time to close our eyes to remembering to allow for remembrance.

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