Can we forget something we did not live to remember? Nathan Wachtel argues that we do not remember on our own, but we can only make sense of recollections within the broader context which we belong to. Our identity is negotiated with reference to a past which we choose to remember, with reference to the group we are part of.
This process of recollection, therefore, takes place in the present. Through the process which determines what have happened to us in our history, we are also actively constructing our own selves, our identities, in the present. The commemoration of those who were killed in the First and Second World Wars and later conflicts, therefore, is no longer simply a reflection of the past but it is also a part of the present reality.
It comes as no surprise, then, that when Desmond Doss argues that ‘[w]ith the world so set on tearing itself apart, it doesn’t seem like such a bad thing to me to want to put a little bit of it back together,’ Hacksaw Ridge (2016) reflects on our own times as much as on the bloodier times of the movie’s story.
Today, when sugar is deadlier than gunpowder, we have problems with receiving a tradition, as if there is no past. We find it so difficult to acknowledge that we are created, as if there is no Creator. We are, consequently, losing our collective memory – and our humanity with it. We are unhinged.
At a time when we too have to make our own way in the mess we ourselves have left, we should strive to rediscover the sacred in our lives and to recover the idea of sacrifice (of meaning, in fact), lest we are alienated from our own selves (Mark 8:36); lest we forget not only the sacrifices of the past but also life’s deepest yearnings.