The Sobriety of Suffering & The Protest of Memory
In a wonderful (and difficult) book called The Way of Suffering, Jerome Miller begins his geography of crisis by reflecting on memory. He observed that memory takes place at a sub-conscious level. We do not make decisions about what we do and do not remember on a day to day basis. Our minds retain and discard information all the time without any conscious effort. He also pointed out how we so often cannot remember what we do on a day to day basis. If I asked you, for example, what you did last Tuesday, you most likely would have a hard time remembering. Our memories don't retain all of the mundane details that make up the majority of our lives. He says that it is if our memories stand in protest of the lives that we are living. As though our sub-conscious is saying to us, "I will only retain what is sacred and worth while" as it discards the majority of our life's content. These worlds of ours that we spend so much energy trying to plan and control are forgettable while the traumas and ruptures in those plans are the things that we never forget. Why might the most painful and traumatic memories be the most cherished and protected by the sub-conscious memory? Could it be that those wounds are somehow more meaningful, formative and important than everything else in our lives that our conscious selves spend all of our attention and resources trying to tend to?
Anyone who has been through extreme suffering can tell you that when they are in the throws of it, everything that usually matters in ones life ceases to have any importance. We normally spend energy and resources trying to look right, dress right, act right, eat right, etc. and when one enters true grieving they stop caring about any of these things. I have come to realize that there is, in suffering, a gift of sobriety about life. It is in that moment that our worlds are shattered that we can look around and see clearly how meaningless and empty what we normally spend ourselves on is. Trauma, suffering and grief take over ones very self. We do not choose to submit to it but are overcome by it, we cannot shake it off but are in its grips and we cannot accept nor escape the evil and death in which we find ourselves. People must never doubt that there is a power greater than themselves for they need look no further than the experience of suffering. Suffering itself is such a power.
Until next time Be Pedestrian.