life: acoustic & amplified

poetry, quotes & thoughts about life

sounds like a memory

Gather all your memories
inside your circled arms
and clasped hands.
Be still and breathe deeply.
Gaze down and place
them all in order.
Let times of joy
and exhilaration
rise to the top.
Make room
for days of grief
and make a special place
for when you reached out
and helped another.
Let darker memories
sink to the bottom,
hidden in haze.
An expiation,

each soul owes to itself.


Sorting Things Out by Edward Hujsak

Memory is not just a then, recalled in a now, the past is never just the past, memory is a pulse passing through all created life, a waveform, a then continually becoming other thens, all the while creating a continual but almost untouchable now. But the guru’s urge to live only in the now misunderstands the multilayered inheritance of existence, where all epochs live and breathe in parallels. Whether it be the epochal moment initiated by the appearance of the first hydrogen  atoms in the universe or a first glimpse of adulthood perceived in adolescence, memory passes through an individual human life like a building musical waveform, constantly maturing, increasingly virtuosic, often volatile, sometimes overpowering. Every human life holds the power of this immense inherited pulse: holds and then supercharges it, according to the way we inhabit our identities in the untouchable now. Memory is an invitation to the source of our life, to a fuller participation in the now, to a future about to happen, but ultimately to a frontier identity that holds them all at once. Memory makes the now fully inhabitable.  The genius of human memory is firstly its very creation through experience, and then the way it  is laid down in the mind according to the identity we inhabited when we first decided to remember, then its outward radiating effect and then all its possible future outcomes, occurring all at the  same time. We actually inhabit memory as a living threshold, as a place of choice and volition and imagination, a crossroads where our future diverges according to how we interpret, or perhaps more accurately, how we live the story we have inherited. We can be overwhelmed, traumatized, made smaller by the tide that brought us here, we can even be drowned and disappeared by memory; or we can spin a cocoon of insulation to protect ourselves and bob along passively in the wake of what we think has occurred, but we also have other more engaging possibilities; memory in a sense, is the very essence of the conversation we hold as individual human beings.  A full inhabitation of memory makes human beings conscious, a living connection between what  has been, what is and what is about to be. Memory is the living link to personal freedom.  If, in the full beautiful potency of nostalgia- the letting go of a child into the adult world for instance- memory can overwhelm us at times, we can also, through a closer discipline, through a  fierce form of attention, through a learned and shaped intentionality and presence, become a  more courageous stepping into the center of things, we can open up the silent interiority at the  core of our story, and become a brave, living representation of its trajectory: we can be the ground  of our birth, the journey from the place where the memory began and most especially the unfolding drama of its emanating, far traveling energy, all at the same time. We can be equal to the story we have inherited, no matter its difficulty, by stepping into its very center.   Sitting at my grandfather’s knee as a seven year old, I was the first, solitary human being to hear him speak- after fifty long years of silence- the heart breaks, terrors and close encounters he had experienced so traumatically in the trenches of the First World War. His voice was elegiac, almost newly innocent, as regretful for those he had killed as for those comrades he had lost, he was also

Astonished that he had been put in such a position, he was humbled, shocked and wondering all  at the same time, as if it could not be possible for an individual human being to have experienced so much, so young, and to have  carried it unspoken for so many years.  Looking back to that small cottage room in Yorkshire, the clock ticking slowly in the background, my Grandfather staring into the middle distance, the times at his knee seem like a profound and necessary ritual, a handing on, his speech almost trance like, of a past that was certainly not a past, but by speech and physical presence alone, a living essence passed down to me, something for a future world to resolve, heard first through a child’s wondering ears.  His speaking and my listening must have allowed the younger man he had been to come to life again, the explosive memory to be relived; the journey to be contemplated a new and the future entertained again in one movement, so that through telling me he could overhear himself and become conscious of what now lived inside him, no matter that I hardly replied, no matter that he was in his last days. He left this life in a better place having rejoined his previously isolated memory with the future my young ears represented. I remember his lined old hand gripping mine almost in thanks as I would walk him up the lane to the shops, his companion, his grandson, his holder of secrets and his restorer of the future, all at the same time.  Through the gift of an inheritance truly inhabited, we come to understand that memory is as much about creating and influencing what is about to happen, as it has to do with what we quaintly and unimaginatively call the past. We might recall the ancient Greek world where Memory was always understood to be the mother of the muses, meaning that of all of her nine imaginative daughters, all of the nine forms of human creative endeavor recognized by the ancient Greek imagination, and longed for by individuals and societies to this day, in all the difficulties and secret triumphs of an average life- were born from the womb and the body of memory.  The first draft written at my study desk in Seattle in a long sitting, the drone of the Seaplanes beyond the  French doors, and taking off and landing on Lake Union, a far traveling outer symmetry to my own internal journey into memory. Second draft worked on by the first fire of the fall season. Third, much clearer draft finished on first opening my eyes in bed the next morning and completed back at the study desk, coffee in hand.  I had carried the image of memory inside me ever since seeing Brian Swimme’s and Mary Evelyn Tucker’s recent film, Journey of the Universe, the previous week, which depicted, with brilliant visual effect, the immense wave forms of the physical and biological world that have travelled not only down to us but through us since the explosive inception of the created world.  A French film chiefly about the link between memory and personal freedom helped me to concentrate further on an Air Canada flight to Edmonton.  The physical sense of memory was made all the more palpable during that last week with a revision of many of the poems in River Flow for its eBook appearance. As I immersed myself in the very present physical experience of such intense representations of my past- the past, the present and the possible future seemed to concentrate into one live and habitable frontier.

By David Whyte


Listen to Eric Church Springsteen


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