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Memory lane

“Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” Matthew 13.52

In our age of information overload, computer databases and search engines, the art of memory is neglected. Why bother when sources can be tapped more quickly and accurately at the push of a button? The obvious objection is: what happens if/ when I get separated from my smartphone, iPad, laptop? And there is an even deeper issue: that of character formation. In terms of our physical health, "we are what we eat" reminds us to be careful of what we take into our bodies. So what about mind and soul nourishment?

Logic suggests that gorging on gossip, propaganda and/ or soundbites is the intellectual equivalent of dieting on junk food. The antidote, therefore, is to take care of how we furnish our minds: not only what we ingest but how often and in what quantity. Just as physical fitness secures our stamina into the future, developing mental fitness extends our intellectual and spiritual health. Here is where memory comes in. Storing up material that informs, delights and guides shapes our ability and our habits instinctively because they become part of who we are. So memory has a vital part to play in character formation.

Memory is shaped in at least three ways: experience, habit and intention. Experience embraces everything that happens to us, especially whatever grabs our attention because it is unexpected. Habit is what comes from doing something often enough or in a certain way. Intention is what we decide to acquire through diligence. The latter, especially is hard work; the second seems less so, because habits tend to come naturally; while the former would appear beyond our control. The reality is, however, that we exert more influence than we realise through our underlying worldview. At various places the Bible advises "commit your way to the Lord..." with the expectation that this attitude will steer us towards fruitfulness.

In the meantime, please enjoy my "radio-silence" while I take time away over the October break... until Sunday 23rd.



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