When I was a little girl, my parents would bribe me with a dollar for every poem I memorized. It is disconcerting to see a child recite some of the sexier parts of Romeo and Juliet, but, what can I say, that was my idea of rebellion.
My father, the history professor, was big on making everyone remember things. One of the assignments for students in his Western Civilization class was to memorize and recite a chunk of some important document.
Pericles’ Oration on the Athenian Dead: “Our constitution does not copy the laws of neighbouring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves.”
The King James Bible: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”
Shakespeare: “And gentlemen in England now a-bed/ Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,/ And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks/ That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
Marx and Engels: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
He told them that it was no accident that the Greeks identified Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, as the mother of the Muses and that there could be no intelligent or creative activity without anyone drawing on what they had already stored in their brains.
But what about when an accident, old age or illness robs loved ones of their memory? Something sad and strange happens. We do not regard a person as any less herself if she loses a limb, or if a balding man watches his hair recede, or, as in my case, some cancerous section of a colon is cut away — but one who slips into memory loss is devalued, someone who is “not who they were.”
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Source: Religion News Service
(Kate Bowler is the author of “Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel” and the New York Times best-selling memoir “Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I’ve Loved,” which she wrote after being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at age 35. She also hosts the popular podcast “Everything Happens” and is an associate professor at Duke Divinity School. Kate and her family live in Durham, N.C. This piece originally appeared at katebowler.com. The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily represent those of Religion News Service.)