The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a wonderful place to visit and a sheer artistic delight if you are looking for inspiration. Leading up to the main doors of the architecturally stunning visitor centre is a metal ‘walk of art’. As far as I can tell this innovative walkway records the names of individuals and organisations who have supported the project, and also acts as a memorial to loved ones who have died, their relatives having paid to have their names cut into the thick gauge steel plate. In every sense then one is walking the way of gratitude.
To me this installation is a permanent reminder of the power of remembering and is a very tangible expression of the power of gratitude. To have such a thing actually under your feet as you walk along brings to the forefront of your perception so much which disappears all too easily from mind and awareness. For some visitors these names convey personal meaning and precious memory; for others like me they signify this broader existential point about gratitude.
Being remembered matters. Ultimately of course, like billions who have preceded us, we will all fade into the obscurity of being unrecollected or unknown by the living. A very few are recorded personally in history, but after a few generations most go unremarked. The link to gratitude in the present moment dissipates, becomes ever more tenuous and far removed, until it is lost. The Bible reflects the poignancy and reality of this brute fact:
The womb forgets them; the worm finds them sweet; they are no longer remembered (Job chapter 20)
He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and does not come again (Psalm 78)
The popularity of genealogy reflects a need to explore our rootedness and identity and is something which resembles the ‘walk of art’ in the Sculpture park. It opens up both pathways of gratitude and regret into the past. The sacred scriptures of the Judaeo-Christian tradition resemble the ‘walk of art’ too in that they are both a pathway to follow and a means of remembering, recollecting and remaking identity. Through story names come alive and are invested with meaning. The ancient stories become our story too. As people of faith we walk along a way which so many have trod before us. Eventually our names will be added to theirs within the ever-living memory of God.
Perhaps the most prized gratitude we can cultivate and become mindful of is for that Divine love which holds us all within God’s presence, where each name is precious and full of meaning and none are forgotten.