Saturday, 5 January 2008

Feasting on the memory of good things...

In recent days, I've heard myself using that phrase of my mother's: "When it's gone, it's gone." The point was, she couldn't stop us greedily attacking the cake or biscuit tin, to make the contents last a bit longer.

But today I learned that when it's gone, it's still there in our experience. When the farm labourers in county Antrim used to come to work for the season, each day they would be given some basic food: bread, an egg, and a slice of bacon or ham from the pig hung up in the corner.

Eventually the meat would run out, and the workers got bread, and egg, and "point". That is, instead of a slice of bacon, they could point to where the pig used to be.

In these leaner days of January, we could do worse than feast on our memory of good things.

If I remember correctly, in C.S.Lewis' first science fiction novel "Out of the Silent Planet", the extraterrestrial sorns didn't understand the human desire to repeat pleasures. Their practice was to enjoy, and then remember their joys in poetry and song.

It strikes me that the ability to remember, and be satisfied to be glad and grateful, is one of the highest qualities of the best of humans. To sing and make poems seems behaviour specific to humans.

That's not to say that it is our calling to be placid in the face of hunger. But it does strike me that if we in the West could channel less of our energy into more and more consumption, and learn to be content and joyful in the memory and present experience of rich relationships and pleasures, we might rediscover enough humanity to tackle the spiritual and physical greed, oppression and poverty which enslaves our world.

Now, I can see the point in that.

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