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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
           Wednesday, May 21 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmasterEternal now

I had not thought of my "memory flashes" to past moments, unlike Fr. Alexander Schmemann in the passages quoted on Monday, as particularly religious or inspiring spiritual insights. But he was an eminent theologian (defined here as "someone who spends most of his time in the acquisition and conveying to others of teachings about God") in his lifetime (1921-83), so understandably he would be more attuned than I am to looking for theological meanings in such phenomena. But his describing the memory flashes as connections to the "eternal now" rings true. The point is that in our consciousness, isolated moments from the past intrude and capture our attention and sometimes take our breath away by their clarity and realism, transporting us to another time, another place, even another version of ourselves so different to the present one that it takes a minute to recognize ourselves.

I'm not arguing, and I doubt that Fr. Schmemann would have, that this occurrence of memory flashes is necessarily supernatural. I'm sure the scientists who study the brain and its processes have natural explanations for the flashes and I find no reason to argue with them. (It's all endorphins, they might—most likely—claim.) The other side of that is that "to the spiritual, all is spiritual" (cf. 1 Cor. 2:13-15). If God speaks to you through the Bible, the church service, or through the large events in your life, He may (have you enough faith to say, "He does"?) speak to you in the flashes of your past that visit you. Look at it that way and you might learn something; that's all we're saying.

When we want to recall things, we free associate. One of the joys of good conversations is that they inspire us to recall all sorts of things that might be worth revisitng. Another speaker relates something that happened, which brings back somewhat similar or radically dissimilar occurrences in our own pasts, giving them new significance and, in a sense, new life.

If you're a poet trying to capture the essence of the "the meadow" without the cow patties and the insects, you dig around in your grey matter for meadows you've visited and try to free associate your experiences into strings of words that may facilitate others experiencing "the meadow," or even "that meadow" through your poem.

When I was working on my unpublished Nanty Glo novel, over months of trial and error I decided to put my protagonist, Bryan, in a perilous situation in the first chapter, to bring out lots of character traits, geographical tidbits about the place, and emotions while getting readers to start pulling for him. The thing Bryan and I had in common that might have been dangerous was hitch-hiking to and from Nanty Glo before we got our driver's licenses. I dug into my store of memories for the most intimidating experiences I ever had while hitch-hiking (none really perilous, but some borderline), and exploded that to 15 pages or so of fear and courage by embellishing or asking "what might have been?" Putting the first line of a chapter like that on the computer screen can summon a host of other memories, and imaginings, so that even though you might have no inkling where this is going when you write the first words, you can find yourself drawn through 15 pages of them in what seems like no time.

But these aren't memory flashes or much like them. Trying to "remember" memory flashes is counter productive; they're that different than consciously recovered or "dug out" memories. Wanting to "flash" brings something from your past to your present, but it isn't a "flash." I wrote in the Jonal shortly after returning from Ireland in 2001 that I was still spending time every day in Mitchellstown, Ireland, because the time I'd spent there, unplanned because it resulted from a car breaking down, was flashing me; I wasn't asking to go back there. Often, when I'm doing my nightly workout at my club (and it seems to be connected to a particular machine, though why, I have no idea), I flash to a moment in Bath, England, when I left my brother Tom waiting at the train station while I walked down the street to look for a B&B we could stay in within our budget that night. Why that moment recurs, I have no idea. Why it's repeatedly called up by a particular machine in my routine I can only guess. Endorphins, most likely.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy


1. If you're too open-minded, your brains will fall out.
2. Don't worry about what people think; they don't do it very often.
See "Thought for today"
4. It ain't the jeans that make your butt look fat.
5. Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz

Thought for today

3. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

— Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz

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