My first computer had no hard drive, just slots for two 5 1/4 in. floppy disks — one with the operating system, the other for data storage. Memory for the storage disk was measured in kilobytes. My next one had a very small hard drive and took an additional 3 1/2 in. floppy (that had become rigid), which now held what I thought was an amazing 1.44 megabytes of data.
Some of you remember those days, and how memory capacity has grown exponentially. I recall the first computer I used that had a 250 megabyte hard drive, then one measured in a few gigabytes. The aging laptop I’m using now came with a 60 gig hard drive when I bought it five years ago, and when that one went bad it was replaced with an 80 gb model. New laptops these days start at 500 gb, and you can put more stuff on a flash drive the length of your thumb than used to fit in a box full of floppies.
That came home to me recently when my Macbook started telling me that the “Startup Drive” — which happens to be the main hard drive — was running out of room, and I would have to delete some files. Who would have thought, even a few years ago, that 80 gigabytes would be insufficient memory? I had to decide which memory files were essential, which could be deleted, and which could be stored elsewhere. I started by putting hundreds of old emails in the trash bin, but made most progress by moving scads of picture files to a backup hard drive and several DVDs so I could then delete them from the laptop without losing them altogether.
Some days I think my brain is also running out of memory. I frequently have trouble coming up with names of people I haven’t seen in a while, for example. Other days, I go into a room and wander about, trying to remember what I came for.
While some memories are reluctant to surface, others come unbidden. The same memories, depending on one’s place in life, can bring warm joy or haunting pain. In either case, I’m grateful for them. Memory gives context and meaning to life as we live in the present and look to the future.
That’s why Moses put so much stock in remembering what God had done for Israel, why Jesus held a sacred supper with his followers and asked them to repeat it “in remembrance of me.”
If our brains start running short of room, let’s hope we can rightly discern the essentials and hold on to those memories that give the deepest meaning to the days we live, and the best guidance to those yet to come.