A recurring theme of this blog is the trickiness of human memory. Among other problems, people can all too readily remember events the way they want to remember them, instead of the way they actually occurred. This suggests that we need to be cautious when reading the Gospels and their stories of some of the foundational events of Christianity -- stories which most scholars believe to be based on memories written down years, or even decades, after the fact.
Today's illustration of the trickiness of memory comes from the Doonesbury comic strip in this morning's paper. Love-smitten Honey replays in her mind her memory of a casual comment by Duke, gradually refining it into a Jerry-Maguire moment. (I'd reproduce the strip here, but the permission fee is $100, which is more than I want to pay.)
First, let's set the stage. For years, Honey has been trying to get Duke, her gonzo boss, to reciprocate her undying, unrequited, and unexplainable love. Earlier this week, in an attempt to force his hand, she tells him that two local Iraqi men wanted to marry her, and asked him to adjudicate the dispute.
In the January 6 strip, Duke tells Honey to marry whomever she wants. He adds, "I have to admit that in some small, meaningless way, I'll miss having you around." In response, Honey immediately shoos off both her suitors. Yesterday's strip shows her dreamily replaying Duke's I'll-miss-you comment in her mind.
In today's strip, a blissful Honey mentally "refines" Duke's comment into successively more-loving expressions. Finally, in the last panel, she imagines Duke having said, "You complete me, Honey." She thinks contentedly, "There we go."
There we go, indeed. Sure, it's just a comic strip. But you know it rings true, don't you? People do sometimes remember events, not the way they actually took place, but the way they want them to have occurred. It wouldn't hurt to keep this in mind in our communal faith life.