Give us this day

Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do the people say that I am?”

Luke 9:18

Who do people say that you are? Who do you say that you are? Who are you when you are praying alone?

ἔλεγεν δὲ πρὸς πάντας, εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἔρχεσθαι, ἀρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καθ᾽ ἡμέραν, καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι. ὃς γὰρ ἂν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι, ἀπολέσει αὐτήν· ὃς δ᾽ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ, οὖτος σώσει αὐτήν.

And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.”

Luke 9:23-24 (RSV)

Give us this day our daily cross. Take it up: to bear the cross is to bear witness to the time and bear withness to the impermanence of self. Your cross is the time you live here and now, and your life is lost to the past as you live it. Let it go, and you save your life as an anticipatory system. You will be a sign of the crossing of here and now, a sign of the time, a sign of the cross, for the sake of the primal person, τὸν χριστὸν τοῦ θεοῦ, the one for whom all the heavens and the earth were created. You will be no thing but a sign in any case.

Impermanence is the other side of continuity. To take up the cross of living the time is to lose yourself in living and to recreate yourself. Your past does not determine your future, but your memory informs it. The biographical self, the one you have been, is conjured up by ‘episodic’ memory, the conscious experience of having lived through specific events. This gives the feeling of continuing, the Firstness of Thirdness, a sign of living the time.

Without memory, our awareness would be confined to an eternal present and our lives would be virtually devoid of meaning.

— Schacter and Scarry (2000, 1)

A person with ‘retrograde amnesia,’ in which all episodic memory of his own past is lost, is also without a personal future. His life appears to be ‘psychologically barren … It does not occur to him to make plans, and he has nothing to look forward to’ (Schacter 1996, 149-50); the engine which pulls a person’s life into an anticipated future is lacking. ‘Semantic memory’ – the kind that ‘makes it possible for organisms to acquire, store, and use information about the world in which they live, in the broadest possible sense’ (Tulving and Lepage, in Schacter and Scarry 2000, 213) – does not provide a personal sense of mission. It gives the context but not the text, the mattering, the sign that turns.

Your episodic memories are recreations of your past experience by the self living now, the one who has a future, the one who is saved by losing himself to living the time. The life saved drops off bodymind as it flows into the future, always beginning where it has just now been. Considered as a sign, this life grows its own interpretant by joining with other signs to bear withness, to produce the entelechy, as Peirce put it. Living the time, as the continuous act of meaning, is not consciously concerned with the maintenance of a permanent identity, but instead leaves the past behind by continuing presence to the future.

According to Tulving and Lepage, ‘almost all evolved forms of learning and memory are oriented toward the present and the future, rather than the past’ (in Schacter and Scarry 2000, 211). According to Jesus, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62 (RSV)). Without semantic memory, there is no field to plow; without the sense of a continuing (and thus impermanent) self as mission, there is nothing to be done, and no one to mind the turning signs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.