Remembering can inspire, but it can also enslave. The power to decide resides within. Discerning the subtle distinction calls for great vigilance. Like those we remember today, many of whom died fighting for freedom from oppression, we can stand up and declare freedom from our past, even as we honour it. With clarity and sincerity, we can ask ourselves what we are remembering today. Are we echoing cries of love or fear? Are we serving separation or unity? What would we have ourselves remember?

There comes a point when our attachment to memory cripples our future. Letting go of our past can be frightening. It has held us for so long that we don’t know who we are without it. But if we are brave enough to allow even a glimpse of freedom from it, we will see it doesn’t fade away. It simply takes a lighter shade. We gain space and perspective, clearing cobwebs, allowing powerful resolution. The pain of our past suddenly has less gravity, weakening to the point of levity as old war stories cycle through our minds, losing strength with every orbit. Instead of perpetuating patterns of conflict, we can shed our shells of guilt, shame and blame and see ourselves from a higher plane. There is nothing to be afraid of. We will not lose who we were. We will gain who we are. This surrender of memory will not dishonour those who have died in battle. Far from it. Their sacrifice grows richer as we continue their fight for freedom by laying down our arms, by giving up our grudges, and by learning to see ourselves with wider eyes.

Remembrance Day is a time for reflection. Perhaps we should first look in the mirror and reflect on what we see. What would we like to be remembered for? Does it even matter? When will we ever enjoy the ripple effect of our own lives? Do we really believe soldiers would want us to spend our days looking back at their sacrifice? What would that serve? Are we perpetuating war by glorifying bloody battles of the past? There must be a reason most soldiers chose not to speak about the war when they came home. That was their sacrifice, their cross to bear – to be there and see the horrors of war, to absorb it for us, to protect us from it, and to take it to the grave. The heavy spectre of war swallowed some soldiers whole, mere shells of themselves returning from foreign shores. But many were able to let it go, to make peace with war, and to continue living. We can choose to follow in the footsteps of these courageous soldiers, marching into freedom and beyond, overcoming the wounds of war. Lest we forget that love is the only healer. And we cannot love without first forgiving – both our enemies and ourselves.

Remembering can thus be a means for freedom from memory. But we must remember wisely, and realize we are not who we were. Every memory is remade in the moment – in our minds. The stickiness or sting of memory loves to perpetuate itself, feeding on our feelings. There is a part of us that tries to hold on to the pride or pain of memory by not fully witnessing it. We are hiding from the very memories that we hold closest. We become so wrapped up, so deeply invested in these phantoms, that we lose sight of ourselves. But if we allow some space, gaining perspective, we can stop repeating history through our blind identification with memory. As we release our grip, our memories actually become clearer, more reliable, less warped and coloured by emotional overtones. Nothing need be forgotten, but we can learn to see memory through a new lens, with both a broader and sharper focus. It is only the effort to hold on which holds us back.

When we become encapsulated by our former glory or our outmoded hopes, we lose touch with reality, which is only ever alive in the sacred present. This is the gift of life. This is what the soldiers were fighting for – the chance to be here now. It’s all there is. It’s all there ever was or will be. Instead of remembering what was lost, we can realize what was gained. We can honour our veterans and our memories by accepting the freedom that was won for us. Every war must come to an end. Eventually, surrender is our salvation.

We can honour the fallen wisely by realizing they are already risen. We need not chase them into graves. They died for a freedom which they won just as simply. It can be ours, too. Indeed it already is. So let’s remember with perspective. The peace forever embedded in this very moment is our birthright. Don’t miss out. The most important thing any of us can remember is who we are, right now – especially when wandering through the past. I feel our bravest soldiers would agree. While grass has grown over so many graves, life carries on. I choose to honour their lives by standing up to be who I am right now, and resolving to carry this torch forward.

So as we remember, we can lay down our differing dreams and ideas, we can lay down our rifles, at once respecting and transcending the lines dividing us, and if only for a moment, we can align ourselves with the single spark alive in every heart, binding us together forever. And if we must consent ourselves to the dictates of the ages as they pass by, we can at least remember wisely, walking our winding paths with patience and grace. We can ask ourselves a simple question; what kind of memories would we wish for our future? In the silence that follows – an echo issuing from deep within – we can start building these memories today, the only place we have to play.