YHWH said to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and say to them: Make fringes on the edges of your clothing for all time. Have them put blue cords on the fringe on the edges. This will be your fringe. You will see it and remember all the YHWH’s commands and do them. Then you won’t go exploring the lusts of your own heart or your eyes. In this way you’ll remember to do all my commands. Then you will be holy to your God.Numbers 15:37-40, CEB
Long ago (was it when I was still in elementary school? it was fully woven-in by college…) I learned to write down any activity, good idea, responsibility, really any thought that needed action beyond the moment it blipped through. My mom, persistently trying to help me help my own overwhelm, repeated this recommendation multiple times across multiple years until it became nearly as automatic as my breathing.
So I make huge lists… multi-faceted lists that get enfolded into larger lists… and small subset lists where I can focus, leaving the greater catalog of actions safely captured.
This way I don’t spend energy in not-forgetting. Which, since my attention might be drawn away at any moment, frees a tremendous amount of energy for ordinary living, and even things like writing.
In fact, I keep a small pad of paper and a pencil by my bed — so, when needed, I can empty out these scraps and set them on my nightstand for morning, which is a much better time to address whateveritis that suddenly arrived 2 minutes before sleep.
I put a lot of my lists into digital form, because I hate repeating myself, and I love the way I can order, re-order, and group digital lines. I also leave my lists around where my eye lights on them, which in itself often reloads the list into my working memory. A sticky-note travelling from the back door to my car’s dashboard has often saved my errand-bacon.
I also am a big believer in having objects (that are not lists!) spur my memory.
The two pairs of trousers that need to be hemmed
Watercolor paper, watercolors, brushes, and a printed-out prompt about the arrival of Christ
A small cardboard box with a scribble on one end — KDS BUSINESS — and a scribble on the top — try 02/10/2022
That last object is a rich prompt: I’m almost out of calling-cards (they’d be business cards if I were ‘in business’ for myself), so I want to file a request with the big-box-office-store’s website to make me another batch, and also I’m due for a frequent-shopper coupon that’s not yet live and this would be a good item to claim that on once it’s live.
Lots going on there, all with one 2″x2.5″x3.5″ box.
A couple of days ago I copied out the above Bible passage as part of my morning devotions. Here they are! Fringes on every garment, right there under your fingers and eyes, brushed thousands of times.
As a teen, I lived in a community with a vibrant community of observant Jews, so as I copied I immediately envisioned the tallit I became accustomed to. Which reminded me of mezuzot, the beautiful small boxes on the doorframes at my friends’ houses that held (hold!) prayer and blessing, and are worth a kiss.
As a teen, I wanted that habit — to touch something with my hand so that my memory would write it once more on my heart, to give a kiss and so feel a blessing — a habit to repeat with each threshold step: in, out, in, out, in.
Presbyterians, as far as I am aware, do not have any embodied habits like this. Well, maybe the Lord’s Supper, but since our ancestral ways ascribe such fierce holiness to it that meal might happen but once a quarter.
Not a motion repeated at least twice a day. Not a tap; not a step; not a caress.
I wonder: what could make that kind of physical reminder for this Presbyterian?
So rather than rely on my squishy limited active memory, I instead would,
with each beat,
remember God’s desires for me… and keep doing them?