What Does It Mean to Be
A People of Memory?

A Soul Matters friend raises the questions, “What is it that takes you back, and where does it take you?”

Maybe it’s the taste of pumpkin pie that takes you back to family Thanksgivings from long ago.  Maybe the smell of ginger or popcorn takes you to your parent’s kitchen when you were six.  Maybe the face of a new aquaintance reminds you of your great uncle, now long dead.  Maybe a balloon drifting into the sky makes you think of a day of celebration years ago.

“What takes you back?” invites us to see memory as having its own volition.  Not a skill we manipulate, but a sacred energy that “wants” something from us, or “hopes” something for us.

And “Where does it take you?”  Well, that’s a big question too.  The space of memory is elusive.  Mysterious.  Seemingly beyond our grasp.  Who can really say “where” it is?

What we know is that in the space of memory we are somehow held together, and also re-assembled.  Our memories create the storeis that create our identities. As we remember, we are re-membered.  In that space, memories become these self-animated threads that weave the pieces and parts of us into this more complete thing we call “me” and “you.”

It’s so humbling, and remarkable!

Which makes it all the more sad that throughout much of our history, we Unitarian Universalists have not always been nice to memory.  We’ve given it the label, “tradition,” and often treated it as something that holds us back.  Tradition, we say, cuts us off from a direct experience with the holy and tries to shape us rather than allowing us the freedom to shape ourselves.  This attitude has left us, as a faith, wary of the past, depicting it simply as a place where one gets stuck.

On the other hand, tradition, memory and history help us know who we are because they tell us where we came from.  Our Soul Matters friend captures this change perfectly.  For her the past is not a place that traps us; it’s more like soil that clings tightly to our roots in order to nourish and stabilize us.  If memory had a voice, it wouldn’t sing “remember me.”  It would call out, “don’t forget who you are.”

And so, friends, this month, may that be our charge:  To allow memory to flow through us in order that it may patch us back together and keep us whole.

Happy re-membering, re-assembling and re-collecting!