Friday, 14 January 2011

It's 2011 already!

Is really it nearly three months since I last posted? Indeed it is :)

My daughter achieved her majority at the beginning of December i.e. she turned 18. Sometimes we like to hang onto old ways of expressing ourselves - it can be a comfort. Talking about achieving my majority reminds me of when I was 18 - the voting age had been reduced three years earlier to 18 from 21 and I couldn't wait to vote. I expect that I also couldn't wait to be legally served in a pub but that's not my memory - we filter our memories - as people and as groups of people.

I led a Remembrance Day service a few years ago when I looked at memory. We, as people, are defined by our memories to quite a large extent - think of someone with dementia and how we say that they are no longer themselves. Memory has enabled the human race to learn and faulty memory can lead to creation as we adapt to not knowing. We can learn new things by mis-remembering.

And we can make things up or elaborate on our memories. Many stories dredged from our past are much more entertaining if they are elaborated upon. We also have great powers of selective memory – which help us to maintain our opinions regarding ourselves and the world around us. We tend to remember those things which confirm our opinions and prejudices and forget those that don’t.

As a community we also have a collective memory which is not held in one place (similar to the human body which stores its memories across the body – for example transplant patients who have memories associated with the organ donor). Sometimes the memory is about an event which happened many years ago - like Remembrance Day, many of us have no memory of the world wars of the 20th century but we 'remember'.

There is a fine balance to be achieved between respecting our collective memories and co-creating a new reality. Different people have different experiences (e.g. long-standing members and newcomers) and different attachments (from our personal as well as collective memories) – most of us cling onto ways of doing things because that’s how we have always done it and some are much more inclined to do things differently. My view on tradition is that it should serve you well and new traditions have to start somewhere and at some time.

I think as communities it is important to record events – in word and picture (video and audio too, if possible) – to have a sense of shared experience – this is one defining element of a community. But we are not defined solely by our past but also by our present and by the dreams that we have for the future. It is a wise community which manages the tensions inherent in achieving this.

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