Threading Our Way toward Wholeness by Writing

You Can't Go Home Again

You Can’t Go Home Again

Reflective Writing: Reflective writing is a conduit for memory. One prime stimulus for eliciting memories for reflection is returning to a location where we have spent time in the past. Twice I have returned to live in an area where I lived previously. The first time, ironically, I was returning to a community just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the town that author Thomas Wolfe made famous in his novel, You Can’t Go Home Again.

Walking in the Past: I did go home again and wandered the streets of Asheville with one foot in the 1990s and the other in the 1950s. Walking up Patton Avenue toward Pack Square, I saw the Woolworths five and dime store where my mother used to treat my sister and me to a club sandwich with a fountain coke on rare shopping trips into town. I was pleased to discover that this wonderful Art Deco building still graces the avenue. On the other side of Patton Avenue, I could feel the old Imperial movie theater where I had watched endless movies as a child. Now, that space is a parking lot, nicely landscaped, but still just a parking lot. My younger self, however, still hovers somewhere int hat space, eating popcorn and watching Doris Day films, among the parked cars and trimmed shrubs.

Manifold Timeframes: The two timeframes were superimposed on one another and hard to disentangle. Walking this avenue in the 1990s, I found myself remembering a particular day shopping with my mother (in the days before the Civil Rights Act) and begging her to let me drink from the Colored water fountain. She agreed, and I trotted over to take a drink. I must have had a strange look on my face when I turned around because she asked me what was wrong. In a voice I know reflected disappointment and, perhaps, some childish aggrievement, I responded: “The water isn’t colored; it’s just plain water.” The childlike literal take on the sign’s message reveals the underlying dissonance of such signs from that time. the dissonance of that sign affects me still when I remember the moment.

Wholeness of Experience: These experiences—both walking up Patton in the 1950s and again in the 1990s, plus now writing about these memories in the 2010s—these experiences are all alive in my memory. My experience is manifold; it is layered and complex. Each memory creates its own meaning and each added layer of memory creates more layers of meaning, and all the memories coming together create yet another wholeness. Writing is my means of threading my way through to the wholeness of experience. I’m reminded of Ariadne’s thread (in one version of that Greek myth) that she leave for Theseus in the labyrinth so he can find his way past the Minotaur and come out of the labyrinth safely. I am both Ariadne and Theseus (they were half-brother and sister), following the thread that I have left myself in my own labyrinth of memory.

Magic Reflection: Writing is a helpful and creative skill. Word by word, we weave our way to greater meaning and understanding, following the thread of our experiences, our memories, our insights. One magic of reflective writing is that it can conflate time frames: the disparate events flow together and we are able to understand them in the context of one another. We weave our way forward toward a newer level of understanding, hopefully toward a larger wholeness than we began.

Happily, I take up the thread again and again as I write. In this response, I hear an echo of one of Maharishi’s favorite aphorisms from the Bhagavad Gita.

“Curving back upon My own Nature, I create again and again—creation and administration of creation both are a natural phenomenon on the basis of my self-referral consciousness.” (Bhagavad Gita 9.8)

Reference:

“Ariadne.” Encyclopedia Mythica. Retrieved January 17, 2011 from http://www.pantheon.org/articles/a/ariadne.html

The Gita quotation from Tom Egenes’ test for his class on Vedic Expressions.

For further discussio, read about self-referral consciousness in the following:

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Bhagavad-Gita: A New Translation and Commentary, Chapters 1–6. Fairfield, IA: MIU Press, 1976 (1967).

Images:

Wolfe, T. You Can’t Go Home Again, book cover retrieved from amazon.com 10.11.12

“Woolworth Store.” Retrieved from http://www.woolworthwalk.com 10.11.12

Writing and Memory

Parts of the Brain

Parts of the Brain

Memory and the Brain: Memory plays a major role in the process of writing—from short-term memory in the prefrontal lobes that hold our current intention to write to long-term memories in the hippocampus and cortex that hold the knowledge of how to form letters, spell words, create sentences, and organize ideas. The long-term memories stored in the cortex can also provide a wealth of background information for the writer as well. Memory function in the hippocampus also helps sort associations and logical patterns that organize our experience and thus shape and connect our ideas in our writing, for example, through comparison and contrast or a cause and effect pattern.

Memory and Writing: Beyond remembering that we want to write and remembering how to compare or trace cause and effect, we consider our topic in the context of life experiences in our individual memories, both short-term and long-term. If we’re writing about the formation of ice, for example, we may have our own memories of ice cubes, ice skating, or icicles hanging from a porch roof to drawn from.These memories provide a network of associations and connections so when we research the nature of ice, we have a framework for comprehending what we are are learning and how to express that. We may learn how the weight of ice causes ice to compress and thus heat up. This heating and then refreezing causes ice to become more plastic, an intriguing notion we may want to play around with in our text.

Memory and Context: As we write about ice or whatever our topic is, our past experiences combine and integrate with new information or observations to further our understanding of, in this case, the properties of ice, and our writing becomes more developed. We can move our thinking of ice as always cold to including the moments of heat compression that occur into the framework of understanding. Ice being plastic may seem antithetical to our experience, so this new knowledge may lead us to research and write more. At times, we may be aware of the connection between our writing focus and our memories; at other times, the connection may be more ephemeral, felt more than thought. The influence is there, nonetheless. In both cases, the connection leads to creativity. Writing is fundamentally tied to memory, and memory, at some level, permeates all that we write.

Image:

ID 46142663 © Designua | Dreamstime.com

Refernces:

Dubuc, Bruno. “The Brain from Top to Bottom.” Canadian Institues of Health Research: Insitute of Neurosciences. Mental Health and Addiction. Retreived December 31, 2010 from htt://thebrain.mcgill.ca/flash/d/d 07/d 07 cr/d cr tra/d 07 tra.html