The meditative act of remembrance

Years ago I wrote about Remembrance Sunday, my memories of it as a schoolboy singing in a choir, and the impact the simple theatre of the event had on me as a kid.

I have no relatives who fought in the war – at least I don’t think so. I remember as a teenager questioning the validity of the act of remembrance because I had no personal connection to war or the military. There was an assumption that for it to be meaningful or valid, remembrance had to be borne out of personal experience.

Those acts were always underpinned by music. As a teenager in the school chapel choir, it was the Pie Jesu from John Rutter’s Requiem, John Ireland’s Greater Love Hath No Man, Stanford’s Nunc Dimittis, or on occasions, Bruckner’s Locus Iste – suitably sombre and reverential music that seemed to fit with the season and the sentiment. My most recent discovery is John Cameron’s arrangement of Elgar’s Nimrod recorded by Voces 8.

I still worry whether some of this music and my memory of it now romanticised and perhaps even normalised sacrifice. Did we have to avoid looking forward or enjoying the process given that the impetus for the event in the first place was a reflection on humanity at its darkest hour.

Those concerns linger, but they are tempered by a thought that reassures. Remembrance is a meditative act, one which not only instils a sense of calm, but also offers an opportunity introduce a new mindset. Most people recognise how a positive mindset can bring about change.

Remembrance – two minutes every year – seems the very least we can do for the good of us and the world around us. Maybe we should be thinking about doing it more often.

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