Ralph Waldo Emerson said all things take on pleasing form in the eyes of memory. I don’t buy that 100 percent, because most of us have some very unpleasant and unshakable memories. Ray Price used to sing about the healing hands of time. I don’t think that’s altogether correct either. Time’s hands may be somewhat healing but some memories sting perpetually.
Marcel Proust believed that everything we experience lingers intact in our subconscious. His fellow Frenchman Henri Bergson also believed that our experiences are never lost. Philosophers and shrinks put it out that we have an accurate hard drive recorder up there in our gray matter that is unrelenting in its accuracy. All of us have experienced those moments when we smell an odor, hear a tune or see a beautiful scene and whole areas of our past are opened up to our conscious mind, areas we thought we had forgotten, but there they are in all the detail of reality.
For example, every time I hear organ music I get sleepy, because Aunt Sarah used to listen to radio soaps during my nap time. The organist for those programs always had tremolo turned way up. Also, when I smell freshly cut watermelon, there I am as a kid, sitting under the back yard picnic table, waiting for my slice. These involuntary remembrances are evidence enough for me that we never lose any experience, but all of them are fresh as a Sunday biscuit, just waiting for some sensation to give them leave. I’ve heard people who have had near death experiences say that their whole lives flashed before their eyes in an instant. In the light of involuntary remembrance, I don’t doubt it. A review of our existence on the planet is certainly in order at the moment of death.
But I am sure we can have some false memories, too. That’s where Proust’s concept gets very complicated. Jacque and I used to go out to the nursing home on a regular basis to minister to the residents. We heard some wild stories, fantasies reported as reality, imitating true memory, fairly consistently. Some of the residents could not remember things that actually happened but thought things that never happened did. Thus, our minds can make liars of us all. Or are these fantasies really lies? We tend to believe our own thoughts, don’t we? If we define truth as what each individual holds to be true, then a lie is indefinable.
But there is an absolute unchanging truth. Do I dare capitalize Truth? Yes, I dare. When the father in Faulkner’s “The Bear” is trying to explain Truth to his son, he explains that what the heart holds to becomes Truth, as far as we can know it, things like love, honor, pride, sacrifice and pity. The heart holds to these and they become Truth. That is a humanistic view of Truth. The Christian goes a step beyond: why does the heart hold to these things? The answer is that they are attributes of God, exemplified by Jesus of Nazareth, eternal Son of the Most High God.
Daniel G. Ford