Among my most vivid teaching memories are scenes from my first day of classes. Just a few months distant from the libraries and lecture-halls of college, I stepped into the classroom, my scribbled lesson plans ready at hand.
Further thoughts for cultivating a culture of memory, this time in the classroom:
To practice memorization without cultivating a culture of memory is like planting a rosebush in sand. All the water in the world will not bring it to flourishing, for the soil in which it’s planted simply cannot sustain it.
“Memory is the cabinet of imagination, the treasury of reason, the registry of conscience, the counsel-chamber of thought”: these words, quoted at last month’s CiRCE conference, have continued to percolate in my reflections on what I heard there, helping to rehabilitate the very word “memory” from its eroded modern definition—the mere storing of information, accomplished as efficiently by an external hard drive as by a human mind. Running straight through the conference was the insistence that human memory is so much more.
"Cogito ergo sum." These famous words from the philosopher René Descartes summarize his view, or maybe his thought experiment, on how we know. For Descartes, knowledge is knowledge if it originates in the thinker. Any knowledge that originates outside of the thinker must be doubted, questioned, examined, and reasoned by the thinker so as to make it knowledge that could have originated within the thinker. Until the knowledge originates in the thinker, it cannot be considered actual knowledge.
Remembrance is one of the greatest themes in all of Scripture and the call to remember one of the most constant imperatives. We hear the voice of Hebrew prophets and poets as church bells, echoing across the rolling landscape of holy writ. Repeatedly, the people of God are told not merely to remember God’s words and works but also to retell their countless narratives and imitate their countless deeds. But forming memory requires time. And time is a complex reality.