Here in the U.S., we are in the waning hours of Veterans’ Day, with an appropriate focus on the people who have fought our wars.  My preference, though, is to call it Remembrance Day, because we need to remember not only the people, but also the wars and their history, and so much else.

Memory is endangered by our mass culture, the web, and 24/7 “news” media.  If we watch and listen to television and radio and web-postings closely, we can see “facts” and whole fictional histories being created by skillful (or at least persistent) personalities who simply say certain things often enough.  Constant repetition and a non-stop flow of information are mind-numbing, and can, in fact, erase real memory.  Real memory is the voice of the child who blurts out, “The Emperor has no clothes!”

“Zachor”! Remember, and “zecher”, a reminder or remembrance, are important words in the Hebrew Bible, and in the Jewish tradition.  Remembering who we are, and what has been done for us, as well as the relationships with God and others that sustain us, is the basis for grounded living.

In my own Christian life, I treasure Ash Wednesday, and the annual statement of the inescapable truth:  “Remember, from dust you came, and to dust you will return.”

At a zendo in New York City, meditation ended with the ancient Buddhist teaching:  ” Let me respectfully remind you, life and death are of supreme importance.  Time passes swiftly and opportunity is lost.  Each of us must strive to awaken.  Awaken! Take heed, do not squander your lives.”

Remembrance can surely lead us to wallow in episodes of the past that stir up pain and confusion, or it can serve as a door into well manicured and maintained trophy  experiences of being wanted or prized.  Out of such memories we can continue to feed certain set visions of ourselves or of our society.

But memory also allows us to take a look at what is most deeply true about life and ourselves. In remembering we have an opportunity to enter once more into our lives, and into the deepest truths about living.  Thus, we Christians re-constitute our participation in the Body of Christ, as we remember his life, death and resurrection around the Lord’s Table.  Muslims re-member that they are part of the  faithful Ummah, all equally God’s servants, as they take part in the Hajj.

So, this day tells me that we have yet another area to explore together in our ecumenical and interfaith encounters:  Remembrance and how it functions in fashioning us, in binding and freeing us, and in our truth-telling about being human.

 

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