... in memory and imagination

Published on 19 Jun 2020
A person standing on a pebble shore

Some months ago I heard a programme on the radio about resilience and they mentioned that our ability to fend off depression was linked in part to having a good memory. Our ability to recall happier times helps us to imagine that we might be happy again. 

The past few months have brought home to me how important both our memories and our imagination really are in our mental resilience. Memories, and the photographs I take, enable me to travel to the places I've visited on holidays, to be again with my family on days out. 

I have a little game of imagining that the place I live is somewhere I've gone for a nice weekend break, making the familiar sights seem a little more exciting. Missing the seaside, I went down to the riverside near my house and looked at the pebbles there in the same way that I would look at shingle on the seashore. I picked up a pebble and brought it home, just like I would if I went to the seaside.

Imaginative contemplation is a well-known form of prayer, but even before I was taught this prayer, I would imagine bible scenes (as I am sure many children do): the fish Jesus ate from the fire on the seashore, the waves as he slept in the boat, the dust of the streets in the Holy Land, the sight of olive trees. So to, when I livestream the Mass, I place myself physically there by using my imagination and my memory of so many other Masses. As I love church architecture and stained glass, I also recall beautiful churches I've visited. 

We sometimes think that imagination is useful only to children or artists, while memory is something reserved for the very old to enjoy when they are not so active, but both have helped me keep the faith in this extraordinary time.