Monday, May 7, 2007

What Do You Remember?

This is the last week of school. Because I teach sophomores at the junior college level, most of them have applied to four year colleges and will move on at the end of this week. Music theory is a core course for all music majors. The skills and information that I have given them will be the backbone of all of their upper level courses. As I grade final exams, panic sometimes overcomes me. Did I teach them all that they need to know? Will they remember what we did long enough to pass a placement test in another school? Did we cover the "right" pieces? Will they thank me or curse me a few years down the road? Who knows?

Sometimes I wonder for what I will be remembered. What will my students remember about me? What will my kids remember about me? What will my friends remember? There are those who want finite answers to these questions so they write their own memoirs. Though they may be interesting, are personal memoir and autobiographies really the most accurate representations of ourselves? Wouldn't it be nice if we could all leave an autobiography. Only those things we want to be remembered would be included. We would have the freedom to "edit" our stories, even fictionalize our lives. Maybe something along the lines of an historical novel.

Most of us will not leave behind a great work of art, or literature, or music. Nothing that will forever have our name on it. Maybe there will be photographs-unless you are like me and are always the one behind the camera. I am willing to bet that the photographer, in the majority of cases, is not remembered by the photos he takes. Only the subjects on the printed page are preserved.

Maybe I will live on in something I have knit - an afghan, a sweater, a stuffed animal. Although, the thrift stores are laden with such handmade items. Stacks and stacks of knitted and crocheted baby blankets. It is obvious to me that these were hand-made. As they wait to be bought for a dollar or two, another person is forgotten. The mother, or aunt, or grandmother who lovingly made these blankets no longer has a name or a face. The new owner can only wonder, at best, who stitched the work and for whom it might have been made.

Just as I believe that autobiography may lead to unauthentic memories, so can living our lives trying to force who we are and for what we will be remembered. If every moment of our life is spent trying to "make a mark" through which we will reign eternal, rather than living the life to which we are truly called, we are again met with a false picture of who we are. Why are so many of us afraid to be who we really are? Whose judgement do we fear?

As I ponder these questions for myself, I come to the realization that I would be happy if I were remembered for nothing other than being one who lived truthfully, authentically, simply - where what you see is truly what you get. Can I do this? I don't know. I guess that trying honestly may be as close as I can come.