The recent film Inside Out is all about how memory helps to shape our identity. It focuses on Riley, an 11-year old girl and her struggle to adjust to life when her family moves from Minnesota to San Francisco. Her feelings are controlled by five characters representing her emotions; Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Fear and Anger. As we've come to expect of Pixar. the film is a visually stunning spectacle, especially as we join Joy and Sadness on a trip around Riley's brain as they seek to recover her personality-forming core memories. I won't spoil the plot for you by summarising it here. If you left it too late to catch the film in the cinema, get the DVD or something. You’ll enjoy it. Watching it put me in mind of Augustine’s classic treatment of the theme of memory in his Confessions. But that’s probably just me.
The month of November evokes memories. There’s Bonfire Night, which recalls Guy Fawkes’ foiled attempt to blow up parliament. The old ditty calls us to ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November/Gunpowder, treason and plot.’ And then there’s Remembrance Sunday on 8th November and Remembrance Day on the 11th, commemorating the end of the First World War. On those days the whole nation pauses to remember those who gave their lives for this country. Their sacrifice should not be forgotten.
Some of our memories are sad and others happy. In the film Inside Out, Joy keeps trying to cheer Riley up, as she's feeling out of sorts in her new environment. At all costs she wants to stop Sadness touching the girl's core memories. But it is only when Riley is allowed to feel sad that she realises how much she is loved and pulls back from doing something stupid. We wouldn't choose sad times in our lives. But they are often occasions when family and friends have rallied round and surprised us with the warmth of their love and care.
Memory is an important aspect of the Christian faith. Jesus knew that he was about to lay down his life so that those who believe in him may be forgiven and be put right with God. He told his followers to eat a simple meal of bread and wine in remembrance of him. The bread was a symbol of his body and the wine of his blood. Nigh on 2,000 years later Christians continue to remember Jesus in that way. The Lord wanted his people never to forget how much he loved them. He said, ‘Greater love has no one than this, than this: to lay down his life for his friends.’ That’s something worth remembering all year round.
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