Songs don’t make memories – but certain songs certainly bookmark them for us.
To be human is to have memories which are often engraphed to our deepest longings – our childhood wonder of catching a snowflake on our tongue for the first time, the angst-ridden shame of wanting to fit into a conversation at school and being tuned out, the awe of falling in love and the humility of the small things that keep love alive. Along the way music provides both a canvas upon which our memories gain their shape and hue and an earthy bed into which memories develop deep and abiding roots. We nurture our glad memories growth by tending this garden of the past – pruning and shaping the good and killing off the bad. Yet beyond our ability to tend the garden of our past only goes so far when an unannounced pop song comes on the radio in a crowded party or fills the sonic space of a coffee shop. In an instant we are 13, 22, 35, 41 all over again. Memories long dormant are double-clicked like a hyperlink to the soul. Memories awaken and with them the all-too-real emotions flood us in a torrent.
I think this is the irony of the Beatle’s classic “Yesterday” – the memories continue to circle the central character like a hawk, pulling him back to his past which is his true present:
All my troubles seemed so far away,
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay,
Oh, I believe in yesterday.
I’m not half the man I used to be,
There’s a shadow hanging over me,
Oh, yesterday came suddenly.
This ironic turn – the present is only found in the past (“yesterday came suddenly”) – is a core facet of the Christian faith. The Eucharist itself teaches us how very present the past truly is. We remember our present even more than we live it – or we live our past best by remembering it anew. The fact that the Eucharist is the Lord’s Supper only in the ACT of remembering should ‘remind’ us that just because Lot’s wife wasn’t supposed to look back doesn’t give us license to ignore that which was.
Or maybe just listening to the Beatles from time to time is a good thing…