On Memory and Friendship

I have a specific condition that is known in the medical field as verbal diarrhea. In other words, I talk too much. My wife often chides me for the excessive amount of information I willing give to people I’ve just met, and since she is far more knowledgeable in the area of social skills, I am inclined to believe her. Yet, as I was reading an article in the Journal of Early Christian Studies a while ago, I began to ask myself why I act in that way. The article is “Memory and Individuality in Gregory of Nyssa’s Dialogus de anima et resurrectione,” by Susan Wessel (JECS 18, no. 3 [2010]). The article was interesting in itself, but I only reference it to relate a single point: Gregory was struggling with the idea of the resurrection because he understood a person to be a combination of his/her memories. I doubt that such a description does justice to what Gregory actually thought, but this is the simplified impression that I got from reading the article. Now, that personhood is intimately connected with memory is not new; indeed, I got a similar impression from reading Augustine’s On the Trinity. I do not know if there is any study available which covers the Patristic understanding of personhood, but I would be interested in reading it if such a monograph exists.

The point: When I meet new people, I willingly give what would appear to be meaningless information because that information is part of who I am. Mind you, I am not implying that my personhood is the sum total of my memories. I am aware that I do not remember all that has happened to me, and even what I do remember is a construction/re-telling of my understanding of those events. Nonetheless, they are my memories, which means that all those meaningless stories are not so meaningless after all because I am not sharing stories, I am sharing myself; and friendship is impossible if one does not share him/herself. My willingness to do so reveals my need and desire to have friendship and to be accepted (another interesting topic for another day), something that I often wont admit verbally. So, to all those who have suffered through my verbosity, I apologize and thank you.

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