Stirring Memory

Driving home late last week, I was listening to an album show on Radio Ulster. The music was consistently good, and then the presenter played a Billy Joel song “Goodnight Saigon’ from his 1982 album ‘The Nylon Curtain‘.

By the way, please don’t imagine I’m some kind of Billy Joel freak…I’m not, I had to look those details up on wikipedia.

Thing is I, remember that song when it was released, though I don’t recall hearing in anytime in the interim.

But you know what? I remembered the words. They came naturally as the song emerged from my car radio. There was no thinking ahead, no preparation, indeed, I wasn’t aware I even knew what words came next until I was lead into them by the melody and then they just fell from my lips as I sang along. To Billy Joel.

Thankfully there was no-one else in the car with me.

But it got me thinking about what else might be stored away in my head that I’m not even aware I know and how it can be released by serendipity.

I remember cycling past a just-mown field in late summer and bang, into my head came an explosion of memories of the hayfield behind our house and the pit we filled with straw before launching ourselves from the overhanging tree.

Or, another time, in a 2nd hand book store, I spotted a torn book spine, its title obliberated, but I just knew what it was and was instantly transported back to Friday afternoons in primary school, dust motes pirouetting in the shafts of sunshine while our teacher read a boys adventure yarn The Coral Island. I bought the book and one day I may read it to my own son.

I’m amazed at the things that trigger memory. It seems that our senses, hearing, smell and sight are hardwired into long-term memory.

Proverbs 10:7 the memory of the righteous will be a blessing

Now I’m not completely sure what that means, but I wonder is it encouragement to live in such a manner that the memories laid down are ones that bless us in the future. Certainly sounds like wisdom.

So why not give some thought today to doing or saying something that may well lay down a memory which will bless you or a loved one sometime in the future, long after you have even forgotten that you’ve forgotten it.

Which is what I want to do with Billy Joel right now.

Broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster Thought for the Day on Monday, 11 February 2008

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