"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Take, O Lord, and Receive All My Memory...."

Thus begins the famous prayer of the founder of the Jesuits, Ignatius of Loyola, in his famous Spiritual Exercises. This particular line comes in for especial attention in Matthew Ashley's short, suggestive lecture which I have read with great interest: Take Lord and Receive All My Memory: Toward an Anamnestic Mysticism.

What does that mean in itself? What would--does--the Lord do with our memory in such cases? Has He a hidey-hole where He keeps it for safekeeping in case we want it back? Would He cast it into oblivion where neither we nor--perhaps--even He could retrieve it, so "far as the East is from the West...does He remove our transgressions from us" (Ps. 103:12)?

What does it mean with reference to, say, controverted and divisive Christian events such as the Council of Chalcedon or the Fourth Crusade? What would the Lord do with our memories in such cases? Is it possible, in the search for Christian unity, that we might need to ask the Lord to obliterate our memories of division?

Readers will know that these and related questions continue to occupy my thinking, as I have often noted on here over the past year especially.

Several new or forthcoming works will continue to put these questions before us, including Orthodox and Catholic Christians in Eastern Europe, as in this new study by Uilleam Blacker, Memory, Forgetting and the Legacy of Post-1945 Displacement in Russia and Eastern Europe (Routledge, 2017), 240pp.

About this book the publisher tells us:
After the Second World War, millions of people across Eastern Europe, displaced as a result of wartime destruction, deportations and redrawing of state boundaries, found themselves living in cities that were filled with the traces of the foreign cultures of the former inhabitants. In the immediate post-war period these traces were not acknowledged, the new inhabitants going along with official policies of oblivion, the national narratives of new post-war regimes, and the memorialising of the victors. In time, however, and increasingly over recent decades, the former "other pasts" have been embraced and taken on board as part of local cultural memory. This book explores this interesting and increasingly important phenomenon. It examines official ideologies, popular memory, literature, film, memorialisation and tourism to show how other pasts are being incorporated into local cultural memory. It relates these developments to cultural theory; and argues that the relationship between urban space, cultural memory and identity in Eastern Europe is increasingly becoming a question not only of cultural politics, but also of consumption and choice, alongside a tendency towards the cosmopolitanisation of memory.
Another new study will force the uncomfortable question of what is to be gained by forgetting, rather than remembering, such horrors at the Holocaust--a question also asked by David Rieff in his book, which I discussed on here extensively: Alejandro Baer and Natan Sznaider, Memory and Forgetting in the Post-Holocaust Era: The Ethics of Never Again (Routledge, 2016), 182pp.

About this book the publisher tells us the following:
To forget after Auschwitz is considered barbaric. Baer and Sznaider question this assumption not only in regard to the Holocaust but to other political crimes as well. The duties of memory surrounding the Holocaust have spread around the globe and interacted with other narratives of victimization that demand equal treatment. Are there crimes that must be forgotten and others that should be remembered?
In this book the authors examine the effects of a globalized Holocaust culture on the ways in which individuals and groups understand the moral and political significance of their respective histories of extreme political violence. Do such transnational memories facilitate or hamper the task of coming to terms with and overcoming divisive pasts? Taking Argentina, Spain and a number of sites in post-communist Europe as test cases, this book illustrates the transformation from a nationally oriented ethics to a trans-national one. The authors look at media, scholarly discourse, NGOs dealing with human rights and memory, museums and memorial sites, and examine how a new generation of memory activists revisits the past to construct a new future. Baer and Sznaider follow these attempts to manoeuvre between the duties of remembrance and the benefits of forgetting. This, the authors argue, is the "ethics of Never Again."

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