Thought and Memory


So much of writing, and by extension life, is about Thought and Memory. Everything we do, say, see and experience is shaped by our current thoughts and memories of past experiences. From the lingering taste of an excellent meal to the scent of perfume that drifts on the air. Every sensation in life is shaped by both our thoughts and our memories.

Writing is no different. Every scene we describe, every conversation that develops, each word of the text is formed in our thoughts and shaped by our memories. Therefore, it is so important for writers to be readers, as well. Visions from other writers’ help shape our craft. Clever turns of phrase, magnificently described scenes or locations, each becomes a memory in our writing subconscious that helps our own writing to evolve and improve.

Even new experiences will be colored by thought and memory. We will ponder their meaning and compare them to other similar experiences to form our opinions. From new flavors to fragrances to sights and sensations, we draw upon our thoughts and memories to process these new experiences to determine if we liked or disliked it. Thought and Memory in effect, color every aspect of existence.

Thought and Memory are more than just physical manifestations of what it is to be human, they are glimpses of the divine spark that exist within us all. The Norse God Odin, the All-Father, had two ravens named Huginn and Muninn. Translated, they mean Thought and Memory. I feel that this is more than just a mere coincidence. It’s a metaphor linking human nature to the divine.

In Snorri Sturluson’s Poetic Edda, there is a poem called Grímnismál. In this poem, Odin is quoted as saying:

Huginn ok Muninn
fljúga hverjan dag
Jörmungrund yfir;
óumk ek of Hugin,
at hann aftr né komi-t,
þó sjámk meir of Muninn.

Translated into English, it reads:

Hugin and Muninn
Fly every day
Over all the world;
I worry for Hugin
That he might not return,
But I worry more for Muninn.

Now, I’m certainly no scholar, but I know what this passage says to me. Speaking only from my own “thought and memory” I believe that this indicates that even Odin was concerned with cloudiness of mind and loss of memory. For without them, we lose ourselves. We lose who we are, what we perceive and how we relate to the world around us. Without them, we lose our spark.

Each of us has our own version of divinity. Be that your faith in a religion, in science, in logic or in a myriad of other ways. Philosophical debate aside, I feel that we all need to believe in something bigger than ourselves. To fail to do so means that this existence is lessened, loses its richness and fades the hope that there is something better out there to strive for. I can’t say who, if any of us, is correct about the nature of existence. I can only account for my own beliefs and aspirations. The things that both shape me and drive me. My own Huginn and Muninn.

Thought and Memory will forever drive our perceptions, both in life and in literature. They are as much a part of who we are as the flesh that forms us and the blood that flows within us. Thought and Memory touch the soul of who we are. They touch the spark of creativity and divinity that exists within us.  Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I worry for Hugin
That he might not return,
But I worry more for Munin.

Words of wisdom from Odin, still echoing down through the centuries to shape the world of man. Now, I’m not saying that each time you see a pair of ravens flying, that you are seeing Huginn and Muninn. Odds are that you’re just seeing a pair of beautiful birds winging through the sky. But maybe, just for a moment, you will remember these words. Your own “Thought and Memory” will register this as a sign of something bigger than all of us. That rare glimpse of divinity within us all.

Then again, maybe it really is Huginn and Muninn. And isn’t that a beautiful thought? Doesn’t that inspire your creativity and feed your inspiration? What more magnificent image of inspiration then the memories invoked by the ebony wings of magnificent birds in flight. Embrace your own Huginn and Muninn. The world will be a better place for it.

Thank you for taking this journey with me, in your thoughts and memories.



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