Last week we celebrated yet another national-something-day, this time National “Change Your Password Day”. I admit it was a good reminder, and in fact I generated and changed a few of my own. Hopefully I’ll remember them! We are reminded to NOT use the same passwords or pass codes for more than one site, especially if those sites have something to do with money or personal contacts. Of course the challenge is how to keep so many distinct passwords separate while at the same time remembering them. A forgotten password really is a personal failure, because it shows that one really doesn’t care about the information being protected. We should care enough to remember a line of numbers, letters, and symbols that block others from accessing our stuff. In our culture memory is not as highly valued as it once was. Computers now do much of the work that human memory once required: remembering phone numbers, spelling words and basic computation, for examples. Passwords and, more particularly, remembering different personal passwords sharpens our memorization skills in new mental and muscular ways. I find it fascinating that when I pound out a password on a keyboard it is often without thought; finger muscles are trained to reach for different keys to make the magical phrase that will open my treasures. It is a bit like muscle training in sports or music. In fact, one comes to realize as we train ourselves to memorize a password that we could do this many times over. We can. Because human experience is so rich and personal, our passwords become attached to our experiences, our favorite foods, our loved ones. Our electronic world, in fact becomes a kind of extension of ourselves, as it should.
On a more spiritual/theological level, the issue of memory is crucial. Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit to help us remember all he has taught us (cfr. John 14;26). In a way, the Apostles’ mission is simply one of remembering and proclaiming the wonders of Jesus’ Resurrection to the world. Memory is what makes them witnesses. As St. John says in his first letter, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched: this we proclaim…” (1:1). As we prepare for the coming of Holy Spirit this Pentecost, may we unite our memories to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, and proclaim our love of God openly to everyone, no passwords needed.