Committed to Memory: Mental Souvenirs
We all love souvenirs. Seemingly irresistable while traveling, we are convinced that our trip memories will all be lost unless immortalized by that overpriced turtle made of seashells (I had a particular weakness for those growing up). Over the past few years, my souvenirs have become less seashell turtles and more house items (I guess I really am getting older…). In any case, I love decorating our home with items from around the world that remind me of adventures. That table runner from Guatemala, the framed papyrus from Egypt, the swinging chairs from Ecuador, the napkin rings from South Africa… Admittedly, I just returned from the Bahamas with a magnet of a colorful lobster. Old habits die hard. Mom, if you are reading this, I really DO love it. Thanks again!
Of course, in the end, my favorite souvenirs are the pictures that we take. Nothing brings back that flood of memories quite like a candid photo. The biggest fear my husband and I have while traveling is that we will lose our camera memory card. We carry multiple cameras and have seriously considered putting stickers on them that say, ” If found or stolen, please keep the camera and enjoy. But if you could, kindly send the memory card to…”
Recently, I have begun keeping “mental souvenirs”. On long car rides or flights, or during the course of a trip, I commit a poem, speech excerpt, bible passage, or song to memory. I choose something that has a certain meaning for me or something I’ve always wanted to recall easily. It’s a good mental floss and if nothing else, passes the time. Months later, you can reflect on the words of the poem by heart in addition to recalling fond memories of the trip when you learned it. This started not long ago, when driving from North Carolina to Pennsylvania. My husband and I memorized all of the US presidents in order, from Washington to Obama, simply by listening to a song on repeat (minute 2:53- 3:19). I encourage you to use the opportunities you are presented with to learn something by heart that has special meaning for you.
Lately, I’ve been working on The Gettysburg Address and “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley (transcribed below). Next up will be “The Man in the Arena” (also transcribed below).
Invictus by William Ernest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
The Man in the Arena
excerpt from the speech “Citizen in a Republic” by Teddy Roosevelt. It was delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910.
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.