Open Doors Spiritual Matters: Memory and the soundtrack of our lives

Karen Dale from Beach United Church writes this edition of Open Doors Spiritual Matters.


All it takes is one song to bring back a thousand memories.

The songs which make up the soundtrack of our lives often come from our teenage years and our twenties. This is the time when everything is new and meaningful.

Later, life becomes a bit of a blur.

One of the songs on the “soundtrack of my life” is by a British folk/rock group called Lindisfarne, Lady Eleanor.

Then all at once I heard some music playing in my bones
The same old song I’d heard for years, reminding me of home.

Little did I know when I was listening to this song as a teenager in my darkened bedroom, that I would move halfway around the world to Canada and those lyrics would take on a whole different meaning. Music not only connects us to our past, it tells the stories of our lives and connects us to one another. That is why music is such an important part of the ministry at Beach United Church.

When you step through the doors on a Saturday afternoon you might hear jazz or indie folk or the majestic sound of the organ. On a Sunday we sing the story of our Christian faith.

Music provides the cues of rhythm and rhyme which helps us to remember; to unlock information and feelings which are held in the murky depths of our brains.

Losing our memory is traumatic because the link that connects us one to another and to our past becomes tenuous. Music can help bring back some of those special moments we thought were lost. Why is that?

A large part of memory is held in the unconscious mind, the implicit memory system. We normally only consider our “explicit memory” which is the deliberate, conscious retrieval of facts and figures, names and places. It is the explicit memory system that is damaged by conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Implicit memory is more durable because it taps into our emotions. This is why there is so much truth in the quote “I will never forget the way you made me feel.”

The soundtrack of faith communities such as Beach United Church, includes music from a rich variety of genres which touch our souls. When we pay attention to how people feel when they leave our buildings, this soundtrack will include open hospitality, warm welcome, inclusive compassion, respectful listening.

Imagine paying more attention to how people feel when they are with us, rather than what we do – the world would be a very different place.

Karen Dale is in ministry with Beach United Church

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