Filling the cup

Poised to write, I leafed through the notes scrawled on my pad. I remembered the conversation and context… it was worth writing about. Given the sketchy nature of what I had written, it was a minute or two before I recalled that I had already done so. It isn’t the first time that has happened. I turned the page, skimming through scribbles meant to be informative reminders, but whose meaning evades me. Which bones at Newbury?

Odd phrases jump off the page. “Atoms on the body of God, unable to see, not noticed when sloughed…” That sounds like a conversation with my son. “Steal standing stone.” That was for But ‘n’ Ben. “Castigated as outlandish and irrelevant in their time, raised to beatitude when dead. Their beliefs can no longer be questioned…”  Each scribbled phrase a reminder of a conversation, condensed into a few words that convey both much and little.

Some I remember better than others. “Systems are two-dimensional, experience is three-dimensional.” By extension, gnosis, that indefinable grace that comes through no logical channel, could be said to be four-dimensional. It had made perfect sense at the time. Any system of teaching, no matter how beautiful, is of itself, flat. No more than transmitted knowledge. It is not until someone works with a system, experiencing it, that it takes on depth and meaning. It comes to life for them, as a seed comes into bloom with all its colour and perfume. Yet without the seed there would be no flower. Knowledge can be shared, but understanding has to grow and it can only do so through experience.

Then “no problem with memory, just retrieval” seemed rather too appropriate. That was another conversation with my son, but if ever I needed an illustration of what we had been talking about, this was it.

The scribbles in the notebook are just snippets of conversations that lasted hours. An odd phrase that stuck in the mind that was written down later… notes on works in progress… isolated ideas that made it to the page. Yet without the context of the conversation, they relay but the tiniest fraction of what was said and often seem to make little sense. For a while, that bothered me. These were conversations that lit up the mind and sent it spinning down unexplored pathways… and I’d lost them!

Or had I?

Without the step by step volley of ideas, it might be difficult to pin down exactly what we had been talking about and how we arrived at those realisations. It might be hard to put them into meaningful words… the details may fade…but the essence of the experience remains.

Somewhere in the vaults of the mind, every moment is neatly filed away. We could not handle so much detail on the surface of memory. Only those things we need to remember remain at the most immediately accessible level, the rest is buried deeper, requiring a trigger to bring it to the forefront of consciousness. Ideas that accumulate like pennies are exchanged for the banknote of understanding. The pennies are not lost, but they look different and take up less space… we do not need to carry their weight.

No experience, no conversation is ever lost or wasted, even if it seems forgotten. The essence of what we can draw from each moment is added to our store of knowledge and understanding. We would not even try to identify each individual drop that makes up a glass of wine… and how could we, when there is neither beginning nor end to any drop that is part of the whole? Experience fills the cup of life, each moment melding with what has gone before, another drop in the Cup. And sometimes, it sparkles.

24 thoughts on “Filling the cup

  1. These days, I am careful to write notes to ensure thoughts are not lost forever. Now I just have to learn to write just enough to jog my old grey cells into understanding… You’re right, Sue, retrieval is key…

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  2. Intriguing ideas, Sue. Memory is a strange thing. I was speaking to my husband about it this morning. We both have very good memories. I especially, can recall the details of all the projects I have ever worked on. It may sound like an exaggeration, but it isn’t. I can remember the client, the project, the issues we experienced and how we solved them. I keep all me historical work and often go back many years to see how I resolved a similar problem and I always know exactly where to look. I have come to realise that other people can’t do this. I will often say “don’t you remember we did a similar thing for this client in 19..”, and they don’t remember. Taking notes does help to jog the memory, of course. I never take any though as I don’t need to. The mind is a strange thing.

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    1. I remember faces, people’s stories, old customers…even what I sold them and why… and I can drive almost anywhere without a map if I have been there once before. But the kind of conversation or thought process that leads to these abstract ideas is, I think, a different matter. But whatever goes in, stays in and will suface, perhaps in a different form, when the time is right.

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  3. Much Food for thought. I can remember details no one else does. Usually silly, irrelevant things like what someone wore to a party 6 years ago or what someone said 20 years ago or a book I read 40 years ago. The thing is, everyone remembers different things. For instance, childhood memories. My brother and I are only 4 years apart and were brought up in the same house with the same parents but his memories are very different than mine. Go figure. Taking notes is a great idea as long as you can read them later.

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    1. Childhood memories are a great example. Both my sons remember their shared childhood very differently… but they are different characters, reacting to events from their own perspective.
      Books, now, I can take you to a page in a book unread for donkey’s years… except those I’ve had a hand in writing. Which is weird.

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  4. Memory is fascinating. I was reading about the woman (name forgotten!) who walked alone to the South Pole and she said she was amazed at how long-forgotten childhood memories began to surface. Not forgotten, just stored deep down in the memory filing cabinet.

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  5. A lovely post, Sue. I don’t think we actually “lose” experience either. When I was studying children’s brains (that sounds so creepy, but that’s what it was) we talked about templates of experience stored in the brain’s vast library, and how those templates could be recalled as memories. But even when not consciously recalled, how those templates serve as filters to color new experiences, each additional input a tiny piece of the colossal puzzle that makes us who we are. That’s where your post took me. Great read. ❤

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  6. Love this! I’ve learned to often say, “I’m not certain where I first came across the idea – perhaps in (this) or (when there)? But over time, it seems the core thought I had has from the first ‘seed’ has been mulched, watered, given light and warmth – and now? Well the latest work that brought it to mind was – — now where did I put that durn bookmark…?!? LOL

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  7. Oh, the times I’ve read a note in my ‘story ideas’ folder and asked myself, ‘what was I thinking?’ are too numerous to count.:) In my own defense though I have gotten better over the years to include a bit more detail.

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