memory, nostalgia and things that make a great birthday

OK – nothing big about turning 43 years old today. Birthdays certainly provoke the memories of things past in all that Proustian glory. For memory to be brought into awareness, memory must be formulated and awakened and is therefore perpetually engaged and therefore ‘lost’. It is this in memoriam – memory as loss – that is core to Augustine’s Book X of Confessions as well as Tennyson’s grand poem that constitutes the notion of nostalgia as the latent memory of the subject as a self overlaid by false images, or ‘false memory’ that distract the self from itself. Nostalgia comes from the Greek roots νόστος nostos “returning home” and άλγος algos “pain”, to refer to the pain a subject feels because he wishes to return to his native land, and fears never to see it again. Our culture in America is framed by the perpetual state of nostaglia – triggering instant occasions for longing and loss without sufficient means to satiate this longing. For example, fandom culture surrounding everything from sports teams to geekfest conventions (i.e. Star Trek, Comic Con, the American Academy of Religion to name a few) consist of attempts to reconstruct false memories as present realities through communal collusion. Shared clothing, shared chants and songs, shared material artefacts that ground these memories are key and yet never fulfilling, hence the need to endless repeat the activities – another year, another convention or opportunity to see the team we support play the same game with the same rules. To dissipate distorted memory, the subject is to draw upon the implicit knowledge within which also comes from above. This comes about in verbum (in a word) that the subject formulates through inwardness upon itself. This is what Augustine terms intelligentia. But to understand (intelligentia) oneself as subject, the intelligentia of awakened true memory must be enacted. This enactment of intelligentia is et voluntas – the will freed to love. In the willing forth of intelligentia, the subject ultimately finds self- awareness and, in turn, love, which is the nexus point where deep and abiding meaning is found. This notion of self-love in the face the other reminds the subject that this notion of love is not unique to self, but rather from ‘other than oneself’. The subject then reflects back through memory, intelligence, and will, via love, as well as mind and knowledge, which draws the subject into the awareness of the one whose image they share – the Imago Dei.

So my memories that I keep losing so that I might find myself on this day of my birth?

– Camp Parsons sunrises on Hood Canal when the water is glass and the gulls floated on thermals
– The smell of our family tent on the third day of summer vacation when it was aired out enough to be tolerated and yet still recalled the campfire of summer past
– Coffee at the Winding Stair Cafe overlooking the Liffey River and Ha’Penny Bridge in Dublin
– The sound of my feet on the stones of the ever-turning staircase in the English faculty at University of Glasgow with a copy of Mrs. Humphrey Ward’s Robert Elsmere in my hand
– The first time I heard U2’s War album in 1983
– the sight of Diana on our wedding day
– seeing each of my daughters at the moment of their birth

and many, many more…


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