Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Ghosts of Memory

Sometimes people get inside of you.

Once they are there they wander around and poke at things.

The Indigo Girls have a great song that resonates with me, especially with my tendency to refer to memories and thoughts as ghosts and demons.  The name of the song is…

-Indigo Girls

And there's not enough room in this world for my pain
Signals cross and love gets lost and time passed makes it plain
Of all my demon spirits I need you the most
I'm in love with your ghost
I'm in love with your ghost

Dark and dangerous like a secret that gets whispered in a hush
When I wake the things I dreamt about you last night make me blush
When you kiss me like a lover, then you sting me like a viper
I go follow to the river, play your memory like the piper

And I feel it like a sickness, how this love is killing me
But I'd walk into the fingers of your fire willingly
And dance the edge of sanity, I've never been this close
In love with your ghost

On a personal level this song is powerful enough to make me weep.  There is a school of thought that says we should let go of past memories and events and focus in the now.  There is a lot of merit to this, but…


I don't want to.  There is a simple reason, for me, for that.  Many years ago, when I was in a hard and dark place, I drew a lot of comfort from a dead Roman - Marcus Aurelius.  "The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius" came across my path and I remember spending quiet hours reading it.  It played a profound role in shaping me…it played a powerful role in helping me move through that dark place, and I freely admit that Marcus Aurelius is often a constant companion in my thoughts. 

He said (and I will paraphrase) that Emperors or slaves, we will all die and in a generation or two we will be forgotten.  Our children will remember us.  Our grandchildren might remember us. But to our great grand children and other descendents we will be a name, maybe a tale, nothing more.  In time, depending on how we lead our lives, depending on the choices we make in this life, our tales will either resonate and be retold, or they will fade and be forgotten.  As long as our names and tales are remembered - we are not dead.

I am a story teller.  Some of the stories I tell are true.  Some of them are mostly true.  Some of them have a grain of truth.  Some of them have an emotional core that is true.  Each time I tell those tales the people who inhabited them, the people who shared those moments in time, those moments of glory and terror, those moments of bravery and cowardice, those moments of love and hate, those moments of hope and despair - they are remembered.

If I let them go, if I let the memories go, if I let the stories go - I let them go. And I love them to much to let them go.  I refuse.  I won't do it.  I will laugh and cry and joke and be somber and tell those tales and honor them - ghosts and demons one and all.

Demons only hurt us become we once loved them or they once loved us.  Ghosts haunt us because we loved them or they loved us.  If our love is such that we can let it go - just because it makes us uncomfortable, just because it tangles us in thorns, just because it is inconvenient - then what was the value of that love?

We should be haunted by our ghosts.  We should wrestle with our demons.  Then they become the familiar landmarks of the topography of our lives.  They wait for us like a dangerous corner on a rain slicked road in the dark of the night.  If we deny them they come out of no where.  But if we acknowledge them we know they are coming.  Knowing they are there, knowing they are coming, make them less dangerous - makes us less dangerous as well.

Let me close out this particular entry with the one last thought - and some lyrics from another great song…

It is good to be haunted by ghosts and demons.  That is how we know we are alive, how we know we are loved, how we know that, even for a brief and shining moment, we matter.

I'm The Only One
-Melissa Etheridge

Please baby can't you see
I'm trying to explain
I've been here before and I'm locking the door
And I'm not going back again
Her eyes and arms and skin won't make
It go away
You'll wake up tomorrow and wrestle the sorrow
That holds you down today

Go on and hold her till the screaming is gone
Go on believe her when she tells you
Nothings wrong
But I'm the only one
Who'll walk across the fire for you
I'm the only one
Who'll drown in my desire for you
It's only fear that makes you run
The demons that you're hiding from
When all your promises are gone
I'm the only one

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