Monday, November 28, 2005

Measurement … Memory

I am always astounded by how many folk haven’t the foggiest idea about feet and yards. The fact that “50 yards” equals “150 feet” simply eludes them. Now perhaps they were asleep that day in physical science when Mr. Brown explicated between feet and yards, yards and meters and that one inch equals “2.54” centimeters; or it just may be that all of us measure things differently, and that these differing modes of measurement reflect varying and diverse choices, attitudes and approaches to life.

Earlier today, just as I was leaving a local restaurant, I noticed upon the exit doorway that someone had scrawled a rather crude height chart. Customers could measure their height upon leaving; perhaps that amenity in addition to the quality of the food, I supposed, might motivate the more “height-conscious” customers to come back again. Once outside, Zac, my younger son, with whom I had just finished lunch (and who has helped me before with suggestions and remembrances) remarked that back home at his mom’s house, my old marital residence, there could still be seen the old pencil marks that his mom and I made just above Ben’s head when we would periodically measure his growth. I marveled at this recollection-not only with respect to its literal content-but with the realization that our minds store so many inactive memories which require no more than a simple “pinprick” of stimulation to recall them to living memory. Here was such an instance-a very real memory suddenly recalled to consciousness-that had lain dormant for at least fifteen years.

The very phenomenon of “memory” itself, I suppose, seems so utterly inexplicable: its chemistry, its mechanics baffling, but however unknowable or even mysterious the workings of human memory may seem, that alone should not deter us from being awestruck by what it allows us to do-to ‘re-collect’. Just imagine how regrettably one-dimensional life would be without ‘recollection’! Not unlike what the “replay” is to televised sports, ‘recollection’ permits us an opportunity to experience the moment again. To gather up anew, to pick up the scattered pieces, to be able to live an event “geometrically”, as it were, revolving the sphere of life around and again in one’s mind’s eye … that all of its angles might be examined.

I can by virtue of ‘recollection’ enjoy how it was that Ben, when but barely a toddler-dressed in but a diaper and one of those ‘snap on’ button undershirts- absconded with his grandpa’s, my dad’s unlit, empty pipe and scurried away to the front room. Some minutes later, having discovered that dad’s pipe was missing, we found Ben, pipe in mouth, comfortably situated within the mouth of the fake fireplace in our apartment! Attached to this recollection is yet another … I can still very clearly “see” the utter joy on my dad’s face when our little pipe thief’s whereabouts were discovered!

How does one measure the memory of an individual? Rabbi Louis answers the question …

"In spite of being afflicted with many illnesses and life threatening problems, he was always positive. I always saw him with a broad and handsome smile on his face and always saw hope and optimism in his eyes. He taught us to be able to continue in spite of adversity, a lesson we need to relearn even more every day now that we are apart from him."

No comments: