by Nick Flynn
“Try this—close / your eyes. No, wait, when—if—we see each other / again the first thing we should do is close our eyes—no, / first we should tie our hands to something / solid—bedpost, doorknob—otherwise they (wild birds) / might startle us / awake. Are we forgetting something? What about that / warehouse, the one beside the airport, that room / of black boxes, a man in each box? I hear / if you bring this one into the light he will not stop / crying, if you show this one a photo of his son / his eyes go dead. Turn up / the heat, turn up the song. First thing we should do / if we see each other again is to make / a cage of our bodies—inside we can place / whatever still shines.” Thanks to Poet.org
Body memory is evidence of a place beyond everyday consciousness. As I sit with mom, I regard her dance with Alzheimers as an amazing feat of body memory. She remains connected by this mechanism.
What does her body remember? What role is memory playing in her day? How does she still remember how to dance when so much else has disappeared?
Science does not yet know how to explain body memory. As a dancer, I learned that I could download bodies of information that would remain. Embodied practice is like a bank account. I can draw on dances for my entire life.
Practice gave access to histories of experience. If I don’t have to concentrate on what I am learning I can attend to additional information in the moment. A dancing memory provides a platform for experiences that can only be received if the platform is there.
Then there are memories that I’ve never practiced. Why did I hate gambling? Is memory related to our cells? Some say genes have memory. ( see The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the ORigins of Consciousness by Jeremy Narby) I believe they do. When I learned that some of my family members have struggled with gambling I wondered if this was why the thought of Las Vegas repels me?
And what about when a memory prints without our knowing it? A sub or pre-conscious felt image makes our body seem like a tempurpedic mattress. Yet we are able to filter the infinite impresssions experienced in any given day. I say, “Thank goodness I can forget!”
Mom can improvise in every way. She can make up words. She can move objects. She can give you a kiss and fend you off when you trespass on her personal space. Are these mere instincts? What is the light that suddenly flares when she looks up and really recognizes me?
Share some of the mystery of memory with me on my blog page called Dancing with the D Words. Click here and check it out.