Friday, November 13, 2009

Memory Hold the Door

Caught in the flush and rush of life it can be difficult to remember, to stop and reflect. I think that's one of the powers of story, to be able to hold you and carry you along in a memory, a thought, a moment of the past. A story can hold the door for you so that it does not swing shut and lock you out.

This post is slightly belated, but I wanted to write it nonetheless. It was Remembrance Day two days ago, and that's an important holiday for me. Not for any hugely personal reason, but for a deeply felt cultural reason. It's a reminder of that need for reflection. It's a pause in the ongoing rush of the year.

And what helps me in this reflection is to engage the past through story. I listen to the stories of a friend who served in Korea. I pick up The Things They Carried or This Way For the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen and leaf through the pages. I watch Band of Brothers, appreciating the experience of a few as a symbol of the many.

Story here as transformation, as connection, as substitute memory. A proxy for experiences I cannot know myself, nor wish to. A moment of thanks, where story can serve as ritual. I try to do this every year, story providing a way to make an abstract idea concrete, to provide a vivid and felt reality that can embody the emptiness of a day marked so loosely on a calendar.

So... story as ritual - anyone else have quirks like this? How do you use stories to commemorate or remember something?


Susan Quinn said...

I can't wait to read the burning-down book that comes from that cauldron of ideas you call your head. It's a very interesting place.

Stories for me are usually more about transport than touchstone. I like my escapism, but especially if it touches the heart of some deeply human question. Perhaps the removal from reality makes it easier to grasp, or consume.

Ink said...

I have weird dreams, too!

And I do like escapism. I'm a moody reader, so my tastes shift a lot. But there are times when I want to remember just how good I have it. I may have troubles, but they aren't unconquerable. In another generation I may have been storming the beach at Normandy. And watching, say, the first 40 minutes of Saving Private Ryan helps me remember that. Keeps me grounded. Story as ritual, as it were.

Susan Quinn said...

Did I mention you're also funny?

Ink said...

Hey! The mathematical formula must be working.

Donna Hole said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Donna Hole said...

Oops; I had a very bad mistake in the above post, and hope I caught it before it was read. Begging your indulgence, I will now re-post, using correct info.

Well, I may be going somewhere politically you don't want to endorse, so feel free to remove.

As an American, I have used all the 9/11 stories as a form of rememberance, and hero worship. No one can truly know the courage and suffering of the innocents lost in that attack, but we can honor the brave citizenry who came to help; who selflessly gave of their time and expertise.

History is written by the victors, or at least a favorite history teacher told me in high school. I shudder to think what will be published 50 or 100 years from now about the issues so important to us in the present. What was reported of the Viet Nam war, the Korean War, even WWII is not what was experienced by the average citizens of the time.

As usual, words of praise escape me in this topic. As it does with the Oklahoma city bombing aftermath. I ignore the stories (usually news articles, I admit) that report the greed of the families of the victims, to focus on the individuals who showed such courage in rescue and resources.

I am glad Bryan that you feel so strongly motivated by events that touch your heart. Though our cultures differ, I have a feeling our basic humanity remains equal.

So I lift my glass to your celebration of rememberance, and respect the issues you are passionate about. Thank you for reminding Me, at the least, that I am part of a larger culture, and whatever I write on the subjects dear to my heart may be remembered by future generations.


word verif: yingshe. So foreign I couldn't hazard a guess; except maybe the universe reminded me we are all part of the planet called Earth.

Ink said...

Speak away! That was a very nice comment.

Donna Hole said...

Thanks Ink.

The Things They Carried has been on my need to read list for a long time. Now seems the perfect time to pick it up.


Ink said...

It's one of the great books, in my opinion.

fatcaster said...

Hi, Ink --

I just wandered over from Nathan's blog -- I enjoy your posts and appreciate your thoughts there and in other agent blogs. I thank you for your sanity.

If you like Tim O'brien's book, I'd like to suggest (my all-time favorite)
"Dispatches," by Michael Herr.

Yeah, from time to time I too revisit Saving Private Ryan. Then there's Goodfellas and . . . well, it's a long list. "The Grey Fox" is on it.

Thanks again.

Ink said...

Ooh ooh ooh! Fatcaster, Dispatches is one of my favourite books! Admittedly, I sort of have a thing for Vietnam stories.

Other favourites include:
The Cat From Hue
They Walked Into Sunlight
If I Die in a Combat Zone Box Me Up and Ship Me Home
In the Lake of the Woods
A Rumor of War

Okay, I'll stop now. And I'm happy I've tricked people into thinking I'm sane...


Mira said...

I like this post. :)

I've never thought about story as ritual. It's a good thought....