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Tuesday, November 06, 2007
Book Discussion: The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly In a Violent World
This month we are looking at memory and how the ways we recall painful things can lead to grace or its opposite. Miroslav Volf's book, Remembring Rightly looks at how memory of sin can serve good or evil, and whether it is an ultimate and eternal part of responding to experience or part of a process of healing that will, at least in eternity lead to forgetting. You can read a summary and review of Remembering Rightly here.

1. Have you ever had an argument because of a different memory or interpretation of memory about a hurtful event or series of events?

2. How has memory helped you become a better lover of God and people?

3. How has memory been a stumbling block in the way of grace and healing?

Here's a quote I found espcially poignant:

"In memory, a wrongdoing often does not remain an isolated stain on the character of the one who committed it; it spreads over and colors his entire character" (p 15)

4. What practical ways can we invite God to help keep our memories and interpretations of events seasoned with salt and light?

5 Did you uncover any provocative quotes you'd like to share, or angles that would be helpful for us to explore?

Feel free to get into this topic even if you haven't read the book; the important thing is to wrestle with the ideas! :)

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posted by Jemila Kwon at 12:15 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 11/06/2007 05:51:00 PM, Blogger Heather W. Reichgott

    Hello Emerging Women!

    I'm a longtime Volf fan, have read the review but not this book. Sounds like a few of the same ideas from his profound article on Judgment Day though. Thank you for posing these questions. I hope it is okay to jump in.

    1. Yes. I have a great memory for names and other people's life stories, and a terrible memory for what I've done or what I've promised to do.

    2. Because my memory is so terrible in these areas, I am forced to rely on others' memories of what I promised to do, which requires lots of trust and acceptance even when it's inconvenient or annoying at the moment.

    But seriously, folks...
    3 and 4 together: For traumatic events and large-scale evil like torture or genocide, I think that blotting out memory too quickly is just "cheap grace," a kind of fake healing. All that does is pretend the wrongdoing doesn't matter. Plus the event hurts so much that we're tempted either to imagine the person as ONLY that wrongdoing (as Volf says in this quote), or to avoid dealing with it at all. However, refraining from being vengeful is very important for Christians, not least because it allows us the time to reflect on the event and arrive at a place where we can at least wish to see the other person as God sees him/her: a beloved sinner. (as are we all.)

    5. Volf's "Judgment Day" article talks about the day when murderers and murdered must look one another in the face. The murder does not vanish--if anything, it's emphasized--but it is remembered in the context of both judgment and grace, so that no person is *reduced* to being murderer, or murdered.

  • At 11/06/2007 09:38:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    To address 1 and 3, I have a good memory for detail, which other people find very annoying. If I let on that someone has told me a story before, they get offended. Or I can recount entire conversations to my husband, which is never a good thing when he is say trying to deny that I ever asked him to take dinner out of the oven at a certain time.

    I agree with the quote and have struggled with that issue. If someone hurts me badly, I am completely disappointed in them and lose all respect for them. I choose the all or nothing response too often.

  • At 11/07/2007 09:32:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I think it is not biologically natural to think in gray: we either categorize someone as friend or enemy because it's the simplest approach to survival at face value. And it is easier to keep things straight if you paint someone as a villain or a saint. Loving your enemy (and challenging your friend) is a new thing in human bio-spiritual evolution!

  • At 11/08/2007 11:55:00 AM, Blogger Amy

    Shortly after my grandfather passed away from complications from Alzheimer's, my grandma, who didn't finish the 8th grade, took a creative writing class. This one class turned into about a year and a half of classes and one of the most fabulous Christmas gifts I've ever received. It was a leather bound book written by my Grandma, titled, "As I Remember," in tribute of my Grandma. What was interesting about her book was that her brothers and sisters as well as some of her own children argued with her about events in story. They kept telling her that she had it wrong, that it really happened this other way.

    I think that was the first time I ever really thought of memories as largely personal and not always accurate.

    I have found memory as a stumbling block so often. Jemila, the quote you shared from the book is so true. I easily allow those isolated stains to color my whole perception of the other, and then place myself outside the realm of wrong-doer.

    I also liked the discussion in the book toward the beginning that said, "To triumph fully, evil needs two victories, not one. The first victory happens when an evil deed is perpetrated; the second victory, when evil is returned." (pg 9)

  • At 11/09/2007 11:33:00 AM, Blogger Jemila Kwon

    I think the issue of memory is a poignant one for me personally because I grew up having my perception and feelings invalidated if I wasn't meeting my parents' needs, so I am a little sensitive about having my "reality" called into question because I have worked so hard to feel grounded and not like I'm constantly in quicksand, not knowing what's what.

    So for me to hold my own feelings and perceptions as valid while creating room for someone else who sees the same "events" very differently is an act of faith...


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