Joseph interprets the dreams of a fellow prisoner who was a cupbearer for the Pharaoh. Joseph requests the cupbearer remember him after his prison release. Unfortunately he forgets about Joseph for two years. It isn’t till the Pharoah is looking for someone to interpret his dreams that Joseph springs to mind and the cupbearer recalls his promise to try to help Joseph. Penitent about his neglect of Joseph he says in Genesis 41:9 “I remember my faults today.” Then he quickly facilitates Joseph’s release from prison.
The cupbearer reminded me of some of my experiences in Germany last Christmas. It is clear many people in that country are still living with the reality of “remembering faults” from World War II.
Alma, a friendly, talkative woman in her early forties was our Nuremberg city tour guide. She apologized so abjectly and so often on behalf of her country, I felt sorry for her. As this warm and lively woman showed us the places where Nazi war criminals had been tried and hung, her penitent and self deprecating comments demonstrated the burden ‘remembering the faults’ of parents and grandparents has placed on a subsequent generation in Germany.
In the city of Frankfurt the ‘remembering faults’ took on a more concrete form of apology. Artist Gunter Demnig has created ‘stumbling stones’, gold stones engraved with Holocaust victims names. These replace the regular sidewalk stone outside the last known residences of Holocaust victims. Demnig hopes pedestrians will ‘stumble’ over the gold stones, look down, read the Holocaust victims’ names and remember them. It’s his way of ‘remembering the faults’ of his country and apologizing.
In the city of Mainz artist Marc Chagall has created a series of stained glass windows in St. Stephens’ church. Depicting scenes from the Old Testament Chagall made them after World War II to help Jews and Christians ‘remember the faults’ of the Holocaust but also to remember what they have in common and work at reconciliation.
Remembering our faults and successes can be both a positive and negative thing. I reflected on that in my book review of Noah’s Compass a couple of days ago. After reading it my sister Kaaren suggested I listen to a TED talk by Daniel Kahneman in which he expands on the riddle of experience and memory. It is worth checking out and provides some interesting insights into how memory and happiness are linked.
Another post about memory………..