Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Remember Who You Are

Everyone should set aside time for taking a trip down memory lane

We live in a fast paced world where we are told there isn’t time enough remain in the same place treading water; it is a race and we must run as fast as we can lest we be overtaken, and left behind. Everything is fast compared to what it was in the past. Food, travel, relationships, shopping, sports, business and communication – it’s all on the go, consumed at pace. And now, even today’s children grow up faster than ever before.

What happens to yesterday’s children today? During the blur that is our lives, what do we remember, what can we hold onto? In a world where it’s normal to go running on a treadmill, or cycling (spinning) in a classroom filled with stationery bicycles, where we rush to work and find ourselves stuck in traffic, where we have only a few days spare for a precious annual holiday, in such a world, do we not wake up sometimes with an inkling that something valuable has been left behind? That perhaps we are forgetting something?

One of the sad consequences of modern lifestyles is the collapse of the Nuclear Family. It appears that the modern era is designed for the individual, and many of the conveniences run counter to the societal unit that the family once was. Current lifestyles encourage appetite above the discipline and inner vitality that comes from family relationships. Our encounters with one another become increasingly virtual, so that even when we are in vital face to face encounters with other human beings, it’s no longer real. In fact, if you spend enough time facing a LCD screen, it becomes harder to focus on the finer details in the real world, and you notice it when the blank balloon in front of you turns out to be a persons face, and their eyes are focusing on you, and realizing you are not with them in the moment, but somehow, disconnected.

It seems to be that in our rabid consumption, we are caught up in the habit of collecting things, not celebrating what we have. We may daydream about the past, but we are discouraged from going there, as though it were a dungeon filled with monsters and slimy crevasses. In the same way that one can take an afternoon off and go through one’s entire music collection, for once really enjoy music collected over the years, each person should be encouraged to go through a process of remembering who you are.

Blogs that are updated regularly with personal details and photographs can provide pinpoint projections, for example ‘a year from today’. Probably though, even the best bloggers can’t look more than 5 years back in time. Diaries are also useful, if you’ve ever bothered to keep them. Photo albums, not necessarily your own, those kept by your parents or a diligent sibling, can awaken you to a context you had forgotten. Because our realities are set in the moment, everything from food to movies to the delivery of what we want is increasingly set in the Right Now.

The most valuable tool for a journey back in time is home video. In most cases the family movies are shot on analog systems that are completely obsolete for today’s use. But it is possible to convert analog to digital. One unsophisticated method is to project or screen the footage using appropriate equipment (camera shops can be contacted for those rare individuals who have this outdated equipment), and then recording the footage using specially setup digital cameras (thus digitizing the material). And from there it can be imported onto a computer and burned onto a DVD.

It is an incredible experience seeing one’s parents for example, talking, waterskiing perhaps, swimming, walking on a beach, full of vitality in a time before you were a twinkle in their eyes. It is amazing to see one’s parents at a stage when they were younger than their children watching them. The power and beauty is astonishing, and one’s cynicism quickly dissipates when seeing oneself as a helpless infant, being held by one’s parents.

The importance of this exposure is to remind oneself not only where we come from, but who we are. We were born and raised into this world, and loved by young people who can become strangers to us, even if they were charmed and delighted by our arrival into the world, a world that is complex and not easily understood. Even if we may struggle to understand the underlying mysticism of the universe, and our world in particular, we are always free to investigate the simple path those close to us took. The chances are, most of us have forgotten most of what happened not so long ago. Remembering rekindles in us a common humanity, and more than that, our connections to one another, which is perhaps our most valuable gift to give, to have and to share during the length of our lifetimes.

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