11 May 2008

Get Thee Behind Me...

Feeling sick today – probably an intense reaction to the tetanus/pertussis booster I got on Friday. But it leaves me with a mild sense of being not quite fully awake. That means I have had several moments today when memories came back as they do in those moments when you’re lying in bed between sleep and wakefulness.

I may have said that these are not movie type memories, meaning primarily visuals. Most often they start as a slight aroma or a some other bodily memory. They are intensely real, immersion experiences of being thrown back in time. But they last scarcely more than a second. I started this post with one in mind and before I got the first word out it was gone.

What really gets me is how real are, and how much in that moment I am ready to stay there. I can, by effort, remember the smell of the grass in summer behind my elementary school, mostly the smell of the weeds, and by doing so the harsh summer light of August, the fluttering of pale green leaves on the lilacs and other bushes around the edges when the hot wind blew, and how the sun made me squint.

This morning I recalled to my congregation the day my elder son was born, May 10, 1984. That memory is quite late so it is primarily visual. And yet, by struggling a moment, I can hear the sound of the fetal heart monitor, just about smell the hospital, and remember how stiff I was from spending the night trying to sleep on a pair of chairs. Remembering feeling stiff is much easier now, actually. It is hardly a memory, to be honest.

How easy it is, how seductive, to want to revisit these places and gain the pleasure of knowing these days are still there in every sense. I say easy because there is more now to remember than I shall like await. I say seductive because the intensity of the feeling makes them feel more real than the present, shimmeringly real, like when I sat by the stream below the school with a girl, wanting so much to embrace her and yet paralyzed with fear.

If I give in to the idea that my life is for me alone, the path of reverie would be irresistible. To spend my days in remembering would be lovely. But what if my life is not for me? What if it is not simply a bag of experiences, and the more I can have and get the better life is?

I can hear Peggy Lee singing already. And even that brings memories. Kazantzakis may well be right about the last temptation. Damn.

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