Memory and Sensation: Feeding the Imagination

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“Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars. His instincts and imagination can still connect them, when his reason can no longer see the need of the connection; for him there will always be some savor of religion about the mere picture of a mother and a baby; some hint of mercy and softening about the mere mention of the dreadful name of God.”
G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man

The happiest memories I have from childhood revolve around rich sensory experiences. Certain songs, smells, tastes, or images will trigger those memories, bringing back a flood of reminiscences. Some examples: my father used to pull out one of his favorite records, start it up, and then half-walk, half-dance around the dining room table, kids following behind and mimicking his movements. Silly and fun. Now that I have children of my own, I do it occasionally as well, marching around the sofa in our living room.

In the evenings, my mother would read to us. A ritual eventually developed: brewing some tea, setting out a plate of home-baked digestive biscuits (called “diggy biscuits” by us, after a line in the movie Gaslight), and then settling down to read. Mom read everything from fluff like the Hardy Boys to classics by Dickens and Twain. We read through The Lord of the Rings, Nicholas Nickleby, E. Nesbit’s fantasies, the Chronicles of Narnia, and beyond. Some of the children would fidget or play with toys instead of listening clearly, but the words were still there and available to absorb… READ MORE

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