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Remembering

I don’t know how old I was when I learned the word, remember.  I suspect it is learned fairly early---at least early in the stage when you are learning bigger words.  My guess is this word is used with some frequency in households.  I also think it is a word that all normal people use.  It is not a sophisticated word that only highly educated folks have in their vocabulary.  It is a word we would hear at home.  And certainly, it would be a word heard at school.  No doubt, all of us were cajoled to remember the things we were learning.
   
I am confident the word first is associated with the things we learn and are not supposed to forget.  We learn math and sentence structure.  We are supposed to remember this stuff so we can go on to bigger learnings.  If we forget, then we have to be re-taught in order to remember.  As I think about it, to remember something is a present activity based on a past activity.  To remember is to make present that which I once learned or did in the past.  We never remember the future!
   
I first took Latin in high school.  At the time everyone who thought about going on to college took some kind of foreign language.  I don’t have a clue why I did Latin as opposed to Spanish or French (I think these were the only other options).  In many ways in retrospect I wish I had done Spanish, given how prevalent Spanish is in our culture.  But most of the folks I know can’t remember (!) any of their high school Spanish.  So Latin was not a bad choice.
   
Choosing Latin helped me with English and other foreign languages I eventually would try to learn.  I took more Latin in graduate school because I would need that language for the research necessary for my Ph.D. dissertation.  In high school I never thought I would use Latin in that fashion.  But it has served me well.
   
Since I knew Latin, I knew that the word, remember, was a compound word.  The “re” on the front of most words is the Latin word for “again.”  Hence our word, remember, literally means to “member again.”  Taking this a little further, I realize that remember means to “put things back together again.”  We get a clear sense of this when we go the other direction.  Most of us know exactly what it means to say something is “dismembered.”  If we cut up a chicken for dinner that night, the chicken is dismembered.  We get legs, thighs, breast, etc. which will be the meal for the family.  In this case it probably is literally impossible to “re-member” that same chicken!
   
If we take our word, remember, back into the cognitive arena, we realize that forgetting something is a form of dismembering.  We once had it, but presently forgot.  If we can bring it back into our memory, it is an act of remembering.  Sometimes that is easy; sometimes we need help.  I experience that sometimes with names.  Occasionally, I have a hard time remembering someone’s name.  It is maddening to know I once knew her name, but cannot recall it in the moment.  I refuse to chalk it up to getting older.  It is just momentary failure!
   
The direction I want to push this analysis is with respect to relationships and community.  Those are two arenas the idea of “remembering” plays a significant role.  In fact, I argue without the phenomenon of remembering, it is impossible to sustain relationships and community.  Let me elaborate.
   
Relationships have a tensile quality.  By this I mean, all relationships stretch and experience tension at points.  Even committed relationships like marriage have this tensile quality.  That means over time the relationships stretch, bend and undergo tension.  It the tension is too much, the relationship breaks.  It there is no tensile quality in the relationship, then the relationship probably does not matter.
   
If the relationship breaks or, even, is strained, some remembering is in order.  Things need to be restored---put back together again.  While it may take some effort, this remembering is very doable.  That is the neat, hopeful thing about remembering.  The same holds true when we apply it to community.
   
Community is a group of folks linked by common allegiances, commitments, etc.  An individual cannot be community.  Community requires others and relationships.  The can be wonderful, life-giving experiences.  And bad communities are awful, draining experiences.  Ultimately, these bad communities fall apart.  It is not possible to remember then---except as bad memories.
   
Good communities, on the other hand, are formed and re-formed every time they are re-membered.  Remembering happens every time the individuals gather again---unity from individualities.  To be in community is to be re-membered for the moment.  To be a member of a bigger entity is a wonderful experience.  To be in community is to be in something bigger than ourselves.  We give and we get.  Love and care are two of the most important gifts coming from the re-membering of the community.
   
Sometimes, I marvel at the depth and power of a word.  Remembering is one such word.

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