“If there is a single theme that dominates all my writings, all my obsessions, it is that of memory — because I fear forgetfulness as much as hatred and death” (Elie Wiesel).
REMEMBERING IS NOT ONLY THE KEY TO MANY GOOD THINGS; IT’S THE PREVENTIVE TO MANY BAD THINGS. Some things are pleasant to remember, and we enjoy remembering them. But there are other things that are important to remember, whether we enjoy remembering them or not. We certainly need to be warned against forgetfulness, as Elie Wiesel tells us. But whether the memories are pleasant, important, or both, consider today that remembering is the foundation of some of the best things in the world.
Kindness. The kindest people in the world are those who are keenly aware of how kind others have been to them, while the cruelest are those who don’t seem to remember how much grace has been shown to them. To bestow kindness, we have to remember kindness.
Honoring others. Why are memorials erected if not to keep us from forgetting the worthy things others have done? Our friends and families may never have memorials built in their names, but we can honor them ourselves by always being able to say, “I remember.”
Character growth. None of us has a past that’s not checkered with failure. When we measure our past performance against time-tested standards of goodness and virtue, it may be painful to behold the gap between the two — but that’s what motivates us to narrow the gap.
Joy. Even when we think we’re enjoying something that exists only in the present moment, a significant portion of the joy almost always comes from the association of that moment with things that have brought us joy in the past. Joy and memory are kissin’ cousins!
As a rule, our basic orientation should be toward the future rather than the past. But that doesn’t mean the past is unimportant. If, as a people, we disconnect ourselves from the past, we risk making some very foolish mistakes. And the same thing is true of us as individuals. We dare not forget where we’ve been and what we’ve experienced. If we forget our past, the present can hardly lead to a better future.
“A people’s memory is history; and a man without a memory, like a people without a history, cannot grow wiser, better” (Isaac Leibush Peretz).