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Remembering What I Remembered

Updated: Apr 25, 2019

"No memory is ever alone; it's at the end of a trail of memories, a dozen trails that each have their own associations."
Louis L'Amour

So I was over at my brother's place a few nights ago and we were playing Smol Tok. The question about our most valued possessions came up. Mine's this photograph:

Cue angelic voices

It was taken years ago in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre during a pilgrimage to Israel. In answering the question, I recalled that I had gotten up at 5.00am to get there early to avoid the hordes of tourists. But once inside, I had gotten lost and stumbled upon this empty chapel. It was cold and dark but just as I was about to leave, the sun rose and cast this perfect ray of light. I recalled that a dove flew in and landed at my feet, cooing. I also recalled that the monks started singing their morning prayers at that very instant. It was deeply moving.

My brother made an interesting point: that we never really remember what happened. We only remember what we remembered the last time we remembered it, along with whatever recall errors we may have introduced there. Yikes. When I got home and fished out my treasured photograph, I started to wonder if there really was a white dove (or was it mottled grey?) that landed at my feet. And did the monks really start singing when the light shone in at 7.00am (or was it 6.30am)? They're not in the picture. I shuddered to think that after all these years of recollection, I had inadvertently overlaid the actual experience with layers of misremembered cues. Can I trust any memory? That sinking feeling lasted for a second. And then I remembered that I'm a human being, not a machine, and my memories and experiences aren't value-free. Everything happens in context. It didn't really matter if I got the details about the doves or the monks slightly off. I had experienced something deeply moving and inspiring, and the memory of it surfaces when I am deeply moved or inspired, or whenever I need to be reminded that there is a God present whose works can deeply move and inspire me. That's what matters to me. What about you? What's your most treasured memory?


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