If you have met me then you are probably already aware that I am an incredibly forgetful person. Frequently I tell my sister something and then, three weeks later, when she mentions it, have no clue what she is talking about. I even, with no exaggeration, occasionally forget my own age or what year it is. And yet it is not my memory which is deficient, for I am remarkably good at remembering the names of plants, characters in books, and historical philosophers. The fact is, I have spent most of my time since I was eight in an imaginary world, and things which bear no relation to that world simply don’t stick with me. In order to remember them I must work hard and continually remind myself of them, and often, I forget to do that. My sincere apologies to my friends and family who suffer the most by this!
That is one reason why I accepted Jo’s invitation to co-write this blog, I am in need of frequent doses of reality. My hope is that a biweekly non-fiction writing assignment will be some help in keeping my head out of the clouds, but I get reality in other forms too. Often as not I stub my toe on it. Here is what that looks like.
My mother: Jane, is the chicken feed running low?
Me: I don’t know, there might be a lot left in the corner of the bag but I didn’t check. (This is said calmly but inside I am saying: Oh dear! Why didn’t I check? They are my responsibility, I will probably have to make a special trip for it tomorrow. What a waste of time!)
My mother: I am going out and I will pick some up if the feed store is open, but they might already have closed.
Me: Thank you! (Inside: Of course the feed store closes early on Friday, and it won’t be open till Monday. You really are pretty stupid, Jane, why don’t you ever think?)
Perhaps you are wondering what this imaginary world, in which I spend so much time, looks like? It isn’t a concrete thing, like Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or even a less specific more fluid thing like Faerie, it is more like a mixture between a paint box, a library, and a chemistry lab. Individual ideas are like colors (the paint box), first I simply enjoy them by themselves, next I categorize them with similar ideas (the library), then I mix them up and watch them explode. It is terribly exciting and I love every minute of it, until I realize that I forgot my friend’s birthday.
It seems rather harmless, does it not? After all, if my preoccupation only causes me to forget to buy chicken feed and birthday presents, it might mean some inconvenience and embarrassment, but that is not the end of the world. There are lots of ‘worse’ faults I could have had, right? But that is not all, sometimes I forget that I am human. Sometimes, in my miserly gloating over my stash of interconnected thoughts, I forget that ideas are essentially practical, that they are meant to be used, not simply thought about. This is when I need an extra dose.
Being human is not simply being a body with a mind, soul, and spirit, it is also a place and purpose. Who we are is not simply what we are, it is also our history and what we are meant to be. We are part of God’s world, a marvelous world with an awe-inspiring purpose; thus to be human is a marvelous thing, an awful thing, in the old sense of the word.
But am I alone in this? I may be an extreme case, but do we not all occasionally forget who we are? Our scientific culture tells us that we are simply very intelligent animals. Disney tells us that as long as we are nice, everything will be alright (don’t jump to conclusions please, I love watching Disney princess movies, and I think science is a wonderful thing.) We get busy, engrossed by the little things, and before we know it we begin to unconsciously think in those ways too. Our culture suffers from amnesia, it has forgotten who we are, and this amnesia is catching. How can we avoid it?
Love of ideas and busyness are good things, but they are small compared to the glorious purpose God has given us. It is God who makes the small things beautiful. Without Him they are meaningless. To forget this is like loving leaves so much that you forget that they grow on trees. We must take time to look at the big picture frequently in order to remind ourselves that is it still there.