December 12, 2011

remembrance in light of hope

{Memory is not so brilliant as hope, but it is more beautiful and a thousand times more true.}
George D. Prentice

This is one of the most beautiful sentences ever written. The images it brings to mind, the implications of the words, the sound of the words, are all part of what makes it a wonderful thought to me. I am a great collector of quotes, hence this blog, and this is one of my favorites.

Yet, this quote has puzzled me since the day I first read it, perhaps adding to its appeal. I have spent many moments of my spare time, that probably add up to hours, reflecting on this statement. I have asked myself, "why is memory more beautiful than hope? And more true?" I did not ask whether it was true-why is that? Something in me sort of knows that it is true, whatever it means.

Perhaps someday it will click completely. For now, I do my best to come up with some sort of explanation.

I think about memories, especially my most beautiful ones, and why I cherish them. Sometimes my memories are just faint colors, fuzzy images and muffled sounds. Sometimes they are more clear. Sometimes they are dark, often they are vividly colored with deep hues and very few pastels. Memories are also in the past, which might be why I see them as dark. They are like old photos, stored away in a dim attic inside dark boxes. taking them out in the bright light would be strange to me. Some things seem more real in darkness. Perhaps that is why I rarely use my overhead lights, waiting for the last ray of sunlight to slip over the horizon before daring to flip the switch. Natural light and candlelight seem real, and fluorescent and incandescent light seem fake. I sit in the dark a great deal. I get made fun of for it, but I don't mind really. I love talking to people in more dimly lit rooms. The light almost seems a barrier and when it is taken away, reality seems safer.

Perhaps that light is a barrier that keeps hopes so distant. The way I picture hopes, the future, is also blurry like memories, but usually my imaginings are very bright and hazy with light. They almost glow and use a palette of mainly pastels. The glow obscures details more than the dimness obscures memories. That is why I believe Mr. Prentice that memory is not so brilliant as hope. Hope is certainly brighter than my memories.

Then why is memory more true than hope? Memories are of what has happened, and hope is only what can be, might be. Hopes can change, but memories are relatively stable. We may bring new associations with memories, but they are still of something that happened, something that cannot be erased from history. Also, there are many different emotions attached to memories. These emotions are recognizable, though sometimes there are so many wrapped up together they are indistinguishable from each other. But they are there and they are ingrained in the records of our minds. Hope, on the other hand, is to me almost an emotion itself. This emotion shifts and morphs with the slightest breeze of thought. Our hopes change; they grow, shrink, widen, shorten, twist, stand on their heads and spin like a whirlwind.

The part, then, that I struggle with is that memory is more beautiful than hope. Something in me wants to believe that isn't true on principle. I do not know what principle, though I feel it is some sort of outside pressure. My heart, in opposition,  believes that the memories are more beautiful. I do not know why, but it does. I cannot explain it. Perhaps it is my love of twilight, the time of day when the light is not gone, but it flees. Memories look to me like twilight. Perhaps I am completely off my rocker, but I see memories in my head as dark, dim or dusky. Hopes I see like high noon, almost hidden by the light. I love my hopes, my dreams and my aspirations. Yet something in me loves my memories almost more. I thrive on remembering.

Dreaming of the future is wonderful, and yes, I keep my eyes forward, focusing on what is coming rather than what has been. But occasionally I like to shuffle through the journals of my thoughts, filed away in the memory room in my mind. I look at the pictures, the feelings, the thoughts and revel in the memories. Sometimes those memories are what keep me going forward. Remembering those good and beautiful times spurs me on to find more times like them, and maybe even better ones. And perhaps it is by the light of our hopes we can still see those memories. Perhaps it is our memories that fuel our hopes in the end. And so the cycle goes on, hope showing memories, fueling hope.

Well, at least those are some thoughts on Mr. Prentice's wisdom. Whether they are right or wrong? I may never know.


  1. I love this post. There's so much truth in these words. Our hopes are often fueled by our memories. Memories have been kicking my tail lately, and this post allows me to look at them with a new perspective. A grateful perspective. Thank you.

  2. You are very welcome. I am glad it meant something to you. It is funny because I thought this post would not be very interesting to people, but I have wanted to write about that quote for so long, so I just decided to do it. It's like He knew or something. :)