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Crossraguel Abbey unlocking the past

MEMORY is a strange thing. I can be halfway up the stairs only to find I can’t remember what I was looking for, yet I can remember the words from an old sweetie advert from the 1980s! Our memories can be both frustratingly elusive or very clear, yet either way, they are important. Who we are is made up of our memories. The writer Julian Barnes puts it very succinctly: “Memory is identity…You are what you have done; what you have done is in your memory; what you remember defines who you are; when you forget your life you cease to be, even before your death.”

Who we are is made up of our memories

inside the grounds of Crossraguel Abbey

Japanese author Haruki Murakami takes this idea further in his unsettling novel 1Q84, with his protagonist Tengo saying, “Robbing people of their actual history is the same as robbing them of part of themselves. It’s a crime. Our memory is made up of our individual memories and our collective memories. The two are intimately linked. And history is our collective memory. If our collective memory is taken from us - is rewritten - we lose the ability to sustain our true selves.” Powerful words.

We’re all an integral part of this ongoing collective memory that shapes our history and culture. Not culture in the narrow sense of high art and literary works, but culture that encompasses the way people live, think, behave and treat others. Our identity.

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