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Memorialize

Memorialize, according to the dictionary definition, means to record lastingly with a monument. And pondering that definition brings up an intriguing question of philosophy and psychology. Why do we memorialize things and people? The answer to that question, undoubtedly, seems self-evident to many people. And it is probably because of that self-evidence, in fact, that a Memorializing a person or event is important for our collective human historyquick search of the Internet brings up little evidence that the issue has ever been seriously addressed by scholars or scientists. (Other than, that is, the common observation by experts in psychology that to memorialize a deceased loved-one is usually a healthy part of the typical grieving process. Despite this observation, however, psychologists have seemingly done little research into the question of exactly why it is that to memorialize is such an important part of grieving.) Apparently, it is just simple common sense that all of humanity has an innate desire, even emotional need; to stay connected with itself through the ages. To want to be remembered and to want to remember is, it seems, as natural a part of being human as are eating, drinking and sleeping. When we mark down our history through a form of memorialization, we not only ensure that we will not forget the person or event paid tribute to, but that our future generations will have this knowledge as well.

The great Ancient Greek thinker Socrates often made reference to this phenomena when he talked about his ideas regarding education. He said, in a nutshell, that the soul of each man on Earth is an infinite force possibly a part of God that has roamed the universe forever and will continue roaming for eternity. And through this connection with all that is, ever was, and ever will be each soul knows everything that there is to know.  The job of an earthly human, therefore, is to simply learn to remember all that his or her soul ever knew. That is the definition of education, according to Socrates. (And, in fact, scholars of English point out that the prefix - which typically means “again” – came to be added to “remember,” probably, because of the world wide influence of Socrates idea about education. The word holds Socrates idea in its very denotation. To say that we are “re” - membering a thing, assumes that we have always known that thing.

So, to memorialize, is the most natural of human traditions besides being the most special.

To memorialize a person or special event is human natureIt is no wonder then, that beauty and elegance are the key ingredients in every memorial structure. Even the simplest of cemetery upright headstones, and most generic of urns, is designed to maintain its elegant look for centuries. And, of course, the most famous of events and people are typically memorialized with large, elaborate buildings and memorial statues that often become the focus of pilgrimages for millions or even billions. The Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial are all typical examples of how people in the United States have chosen to memorialize former leaders.
Perhaps in the spirit of Socrates idea that the people of yesteryear have been with us now and always, Americans have taken to memorializing their more recent leaders with structures that serve other purposes as well: Presidential libraries, of course, serve as bastions for the scholarly along with paying permanent tribute to their namesakes. And schools, office buildings, even luxurious ballparks today, commonly double as permanent memorials to a famous person.

But, alas, because of the infinite connection that each human has with each other member of humanity (past, present, and future) memorials are not just for the famous. No one would likely argue that it is every mans natural right to be memorialized even if the structure is just a simple, but very special, gravestone.

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