Life is a long series of forgetting. . an abandonment of the knowledge we entered this world with, so natural and obvious to anyone, including a child. What is truth, what is deeply known and felt, what is bestowed on us by our Creator, slowly drains from our minds, like water from a sieve.
Sometimes we remember again, usually in bits and pieces, in fragments of memory that pierce the darkness. Like light unfolding into day, we get a hint of what was forgotten; and then we have a choice to make: to keep remembering, or to remain, like an amnesiac, knowing something is missing, but not what it is. . . and if we shut it all down, the remembering stops — sometimes forever.
It wasn’t always this way. For much of history, people knew. Knowledge was passed on from old to young, not through books or institutes of higher learning, but through human beings, through words and gestures. Families holding hands before meals, in prayer; babies carried into churches on Sunday; looming figures like ministers and priests and nuns enveloped in black and white.
Much of the knowledge was inborn and didn’t need to be communicated through words or actions: an innate thirst for God, for higher truth, and life’s meaning. A wondrous awe of this astonishing world and the God who created it; a yearning to be close to Him; and a fear of offending Him. And then heaven and hell, always present in the mind; getting oneself to the former, escaping the latter, and worrying about it, not in the way a neurotic worries about getting a good job or finding a new partner, but the necessary anxiety of a human being desperate to spend eternity with his Master.
What else did we know? We knew what our bodies were made for; all of the parts: the hands and the lips and the private parts; females knew that their bodies were designed to grow and shelter babies and feed and hold them. And men knew that their size and girth were made for heavy work and hunting and farming and sometimes fighting, and their bodies were made to merge with women in this glorious dance that only the Almighty could orchestrate, to create babies and families and build homes and nurture children and shield away the darkness and feel the soft tapestry of life that only a loving woman could knit together.
People knew what their bodies were for and not for; they knew that babies were squeezed out of the body by fervent pushing and sweating; but never, heaven forbid ever, by instruments of destruction, body parts ripped open and yanked away in pieces, in ungodly, unholy, death. They knew what was right and what was wrong; they knew what acts of passion were good, and which were wrong; and if they sinned (because they knew full well what sin was) they shook with fear of the consequences, and they moved heaven and earth to stop this, by going to Confession or praying at church or, on their hands and knees at night. begging Almighty God for mercy and forgiveness and another chance.
And then suddenly everything changed.
* * *
Maybe it wasn’t sudden at all, maybe it was slow, fastidious, carefully planned and executed by people in charge of something new, something radical: The Great Forgetting. The leaders began in other parts of the world — France, Russia, Vienna, Frankfurt Germany — and later flocked to the US, culling their crafts at Columbia, Chicago and Berkeley, learning what works, discarding what doesn’t. And, through painstaking efforts, decades of research, and boatloads of money, viola, a people have been made to forget. A colossal effort, more towering than Dr. Frankenstein and his monster: to teach a people to forget who they love, and love what they should hate. Destroy the hunger for God, eliminate all truth, reconfigure the history books, and (still in process via doctor-assisted suicide) eliminate as many old people as possible so fewer and fewer people remember. And especially target the young people,the malleable, so that if any of them pursue God and truth, they feel dumb, old fashioned, and the worst of all post-modern crimes, “irrational.”
In order to squash the ardor for God and reconfigure a people, substitutes must be created, new things to yearn for, since human beings are made to hunger for something deep and enduring. Now people crave money and the things that money can buy, and the multitudes find fame for five minutes on Facebook or Youtube, and they consume “I,” everything: IPads, ITouch, IPhones, because the newest and most enduring worship is “I” — one’s own shining face in the mirror.
And this spiritual blindness lasts a lifetime, this living miles and miles away from our true selves, our real homes, our reason for taking breath. And occasionally when a shred of recollection bleeds through — perhaps from a friend who comes to us in tears after being touched by God’s grace — we have that choice, there is always that choice: to open one’s mind, to perceive what might be true; but in a culture of amnesiacs, most of the time, the blur of memory is shut down, brushed aside as something unacceptable, something that doesn’t fit into our well-oiled understanding of the world, which is molded by the university degree and the daily dose of National Public Radio.
And yet — and yet what is amazing — maybe even more so today . .. is that there are indeed people waking up. Like Dr. Oliver Sacks’s amnesiacs, who returned from the living dead to once again dance and embrace joy, there are people all around the world who are starting to wake up. A light of recognition turns on, blazes through the darkness and it illuminates their minds and their lives. For them, it’s a New Dawn. . and their happiness catches the attention of others, who are starving to death for something sustaining and real.
And the fortunate people are so unlikely, so unworthy of this grace; and for them, the desert of life erupts into a lush rainforest, and the loneliness and horror of this world system melts away like yesterday’s dewfall. Of course, it’s all God doing this; it is God in charge and steering it all; the Almighty and the All Powerful; and He can and will remove the blinders affixed by the Enemy; and He can make everything ugly, beautiful; and everything sullied, pure; and all of the ignorance of this world into Truth. He can do this; He will do this.
He can do this for you.
He can do this for me.