The Value of Memory to the Arts

I was well on my way to fulfilling a commitment to post a weekly blog for a whole year when “grandma duties” totally side-tracked me. It is always worthwhile, however, to spend time with family and invest in the activities that will yield rich memories. The importance of memories, the ability to remember, and the benefit of remembering are what I want to write about this week.

One of the things I did on my three-week sabbatical was to attend the cheerleading competition that one of my grand-daughters was involved in. In addition to the cheer team (which came in first, thank you very much for asking) her organization has a dance team that also competed. I was particularly impressed with the dance team’s routine.

Their opening was reminiscent of an old-fashioned, musical jewelry box with the little ballerina that went around and around when opened. To the strains of a classical ballet, one girl, holding the classical ballet position, was lifted up and turned slowly while the other girls lying on their backs around her fanned their legs in a manner reminding one of the gears of a clock or other mechanism. After a few seconds the music changed to a contemporary sound and the girls moved out across the stage and launched into a fast paced, hip-hop routine. Right at the end, the music shifted again and they concluded by going back to the classical moves they started with. I thought the whole thing was FABULOUS and said so to my daughter. I was shocked to hear that the judges have not liked it all year and have deducted points because it was not “edgy” enough.

As I tried to make sense of the judges’ critique I realized that I shouldn’t have been shocked at all. It is the same message artists hear in all of the arts and have been hearing since the 1960’s. Our modern, “progressive” culture is in such a hurry to move forward that there is utter contempt for the past and the traditions that it represents.

The church I am a member of invites Orthodox Rabbi, Aryeh Scheinberg to teach periodically. Recently, while contemplating the centrality of Passover to Judaism, the Rabbi stressed the importance of “memory” to a culture. He said that Torah commands a people to remember their past. Memory ties history to destiny. It is dynamic. Without memory you have no presence since you don’t understand where you’ve come from, and you have no destiny since you don’t know where you are going. Memory is the ability to stand on the shoulders of the great who have gone before you (April 23, 2014).

It occurred to me that was what was wrong with the judges’ attitude. If we are so arrogant that we insist each generation develop their arts with no respect for the greats who have gone before we are destined to remain in a state of perpetual barbarism. As a result, we will have forfeited not only our history but our destiny as well.

2 responses to “The Value of Memory to the Arts

  1. What a great blog. You tried to express it earlier and it was a bit choppy, like all of our thoughts are as we are trying to process them. This one was came out beautifully. I am going to share it with the team.

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