Food for Thought

by Eric Hamilton

The following meditation is for anyone who has suffered the grief of a loved one’s passing—essentially, all of us.
Love is permanent.
This is something that I’ve thought about before—something that I believe. I believe this not only because I am a religious person, but for other reasons as well.
I realize that I might be indulging in wishful thinking. Obviously, we have no proof that any instance of Love becomes a part of some eternal, timeless record; and clearly, we do often forget.
Human beings need to forget. If we did not forget our anger, our pain, our grief, then there might never be forgiveness in the world. Our pain and grief would never subside, but would only accumulate through the years. The angst I felt in kindergarten would fill my mind even now in midlife, and living would be agony.
Yet, in another sense, the subsidence of pain is, itself, something to be mourned.
The fading of one’s grief for a lost loved one is that loved one’s ‘second death’. The memory of love remains, but it is veiled behind a scar that dulls the pain…and the keenness of love.
Sometimes, when I want to feel a lost love again, I go back and pick at the scar in my mind…but how do I know that the pain I feel is pain from what was lost, and not pain that I am inflicting on myself, now, as I pick at the scar?
We all forget so much in our lives. We are all constantly becoming ‘strangers’ to ourselves. In some sense, this is a scientific fact.
The Nobel Laureate, Richard Feynman, once said that we are all just “last week’s potatoes” (basically a variation on the statement, ‘You are what you eat.’).
‘The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out,’ Feynman said. ‘There are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.’
In other words, I can remember what happened a year ago, but the fellow I am remembering—including his brain—has probably been almost completely replaced by the river of atoms that flows through my body at every moment.
This is a very startling notion, and might lead some people to conclude that Love cannot be permanent. I, however, draw the opposite conclusion.
There must be something about me that is permanent, or my life would not even seem to continue from day to day or from year to year.
After all, there should simply be no way for ‘last week’s potatoes’ to glance over its shoulder at last year’s potatoes and say, ‘That, too, was me.’ The fact that I am able to peer back into my memory and recognize myself in the past is, in fact, a miracle.
Something about me must be permanent—my soul?—actually, I don’t know what it is. I suspect that it must have existed before I was born, and that it will also exist after I have died.
And this is why I say that Love is permanent, even though we age and die, and even though we forget.
Forgetting is just fog on the mirror; a scar covering the old wound; a callus on the hand.
Every time that anyone loves anyone, a permanent record of that love is made.
Maybe there are times later when we can no longer access the records. We become like computers with corrupted files, and the files won’t always open. Then we say that we’ve forgotten. But the record still exists somewhere—uploaded to ‘The Cloud.’