Monday 12 November 2007

Remembrance day

In his sermon for the remembrance day service at the Church of Christ the Cornerstone yesterday, the preacher, David Tatem, spoke of the need to distinguish types of remembering. He proposed to speak of 'recalling' PIN numbers and passwords, and reserving 'remembering' for things like remembering the experience of war - reliving the experience, perhaps. He went on to point out that he was not in a position to remember the first world war in that sense, indeed there only remain a few individuals alive who can remember the first world war - but there are tragically many who can remember the wars since.

The sermon went on to talk about uncomfortable issues such the role of British arms in wars all over the world, but my point here is to raise a question the nature of information in these different types of remembering. Few would disagree that recalling a PIN number is about information (4 denary digits convey log2(10000) = 13.29 bits), but what about remembering the war?

Probably the main source of information about WWI for my 14 year old son has been 'Blackadder goes forth', watched on his CD boxed-set. The CDs, of course, encode the episodes digitally. Lots and lots of bits, but nothing but* a load of 1s and 0s none the less. But that's not remembering, in the David Tatem sense, of course.

*Notice the nothing-buttery which was how I heard reductionism described, when I first encountered it in the Oxford University Bampton Lectures by Arthur Peacocke in 1978.

Enough for now. It is past my bedtime.


Anonymous said...

Maybe the main difference between the memories of a WWI survivor and a Blackadder viewer is not the nature of the information, but the richness of its network of associations. Connections, dear boy!

DaveoftheNewCity said...

Yes, certainly. This, I believe, is part of what I've been refering to as "context" and what Weinberger called "the unsaid" (see