Don’t fall victim to spiritual amnesia

I’ve long been a fan of Garrison Keillor’s “Prairie Home Companion.” The program is sponsored by a bunch of fictitious sponsors, including the Duct Tape Advisory Council and Peninsula Shirts. Peninsula makes monogrammed shirts for men and women. Its radio commercial features a couple that has four children and has been married 28 years. Suddenly, the wife realizes something is terribly wrong as she says, “Honey, you never call me by name anymore. Don’t you love me anymore, or have you just forgotten my name? After some awkward moments, it becomes obvious that the husband has, in fact, forgotten his wife’s name, as well as the names of his four children. Then comes the pitch for Peninsula monogrammed shirts: “If only you’d gotten her one of our special monogrammed shirts for her birthday, you’d have that telltale signal right on her front pocket, and you’d never again forget your true love’s name.” “And,” the announcer adds, Peninsula also makes monogrammed underwear for those intimate moments when it would be very, very bad to forget your sweetheart’s name.

In his classic novel, “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Gabriel Garcia Marquez tells of a village of people who are afflicted with a strange plague of forgetfulness, a kind of contagious amnesia. From the oldest inhabitants to the youngest, everyone in the village forgets the names of everything, even the most common objects. One young man, still relatively unaffected by the epidemic, seeks to minimize the damage by labeling everything in town with a sign. “This is a table, this is a window, this is a cow which has to be milked,” etc. At the entrance of the town, on the main road, he puts two large signs. One reads; “The name of our village Makondo.” The other sign reads: “God exists.”

It seems to me that a strange kind of plague has infected our society as well, a kind of spiritual sleeping sickness of the soul, a kind of “spiritual amnesia.” It is a malady that causes us to forget who God is and who we are in relationship to God. It causes us to act in ways which as if we have forgotten that God even exists. When we forget who we are and whose we are, life loses its meaning and purpose and begins to disintegrate.

A billboard recently caught my attention. It read, simply, “We need to talk. Signed, God.” Whether or not we are attentive to it, or even conscious of it, we all exist in relationship to the divine. I find it increasingly difficult to “define” God, but I am more convinced than ever that at the center of the universe stands a loving inviting, gracious presence, around which all reality finds its unity. This same gracious presence has “hard-wired” us for a relationship, which heals us and sets us free. All this stuff is easy to forget in a society which tends to validate only the material world. It’s our time to remember who we are and “whose we are’” and who God is; The one from whom we came and the one to whom we return.