the laid.back Buddhist has MOVED...back!

Saturday, August 25

The Art of Memory¹

Human memory fascinates me.

Over the summer whenever my brain needed to recover from reading Dialectic of Enlightenment, I always stole a chicklit from my sister's room. One week she was reading Season of the Witch. And, unduly judging the book by its cover, I was doubtful of it being worth my time.

But besides needing a break from reading heavy philosophy, I knew Kim had tastes for chicklit that ran deeper. So, I gave it a shot one night when my mind was being restless. One cannot (I repeat CANNOT) read Horkheimer & Adorno in ADD-like fragments...train of thought gets lost and ended up re-reading a lot. I think it took me 30 minutes to even get past 5 pages that night.

Anyhow. As per usual, I was pleasantly surprised by her choice.

The book places a huge emphasis on the human mind, specifically on memory as a muscle. A muscle that has been deteriorating throughout the centuries as we become more and more dependent on technology to help us remember things. I understand you could argue that in this day and age we have sensory overload with all the things our mind has to process daily so we need to depend on our gadgets and whatnot. But haven't we evolved to be a little bit too dependent? I mean, what about the Greeks who had to remember verbatim what an orator said in order to pass the knowledge on to the public?

I can't even begin to imagine being able to quote a whole lecture from a professor. Or even a brief passage from Shakespeare--I mean, I could if I tried...but it'd be all short-term, you know? This is a gal who will take a voice-recorder to class when the professor goes really fast (or when there's a likelihood of dozing off).

Either way, having been really inspired by what I had read, I'm working on expanding and toning my memory. To flex that particular muscle more often. For the record, I've noticed an improvement from compiling The Quote Books I and II with my sister. When we discuss quotes you naturally want to be able to recall and credit it correctly.

Or if quotes aren't your thing (insert shocked gasp) you can practice with Pi, as my new dueling partner² has recommended. Personally, I think it was put best when he wrote about the benefits of such self-improvement in The Pleasures of the Mind: "We can achieve whatever we desire, if we put our minds to it."
¹Natasha Mostert, the author of Season of the Witch, recommended a book by Frances A. Yates called The Art of Memory. It's on my must-read list now.
²Why are we dueling? I've no
idea. But it's so on.

9 Musing(s):

Anonymous said...

damn Joanne! your blog is rocking. You my friend have become extremely adept with your cyberspace tech knowledge. Your layout is pleasing to the eye (love the arrangement links for a flowing silhouette without sharp drop offs)

You have excellent style which shows and glows in your blog. But my absolute favorite of my favorites is the occasionally thrown in dialect of your words.The ones that remind me of my all time favorite movie Raising Arizona.

No other movie has scenes that affect me the way that movie does. No matter how often or how many times I replay scenes in my mind, every time it makes me smile and eventually giggle.

Well Joanne....factually, you blog kicks ass!

Nice Joanne ;)

Joanne said...

Hahaha, thanks!! Now, I feel all warm and fuzzy on the inside. =)

David said...

My memory comes and goes. I can forget the minute something was brought up. Maybe you can enlighten me on strengthening the memory muscle !

mikkers said...

I greatly value the brain as a muscle. I once read somewhere that in our entire lives we seldom use more than half of our brain.

What a waste, huh? Though I really believe that if you practice you can truly expand it. For two summers, I participated in a all-girl's Shakespearian acting troupe where we memorized an abbreviated version of Shakespeare's plays. It was hard, but very rewarding to be able to accomplish something like that. it makes you appreciate just how complicated a brain can be.

Joanne said...

OMG, Miki!!!! Yay, I've converted you over!

Wow, for 2 summers? I'll have to 'test' you sometime to see how much you still remember ;)

Prija said...

The orators were the hip hop Mc's for their day. They were the celebrities. I stumbled on your blog post. I like your style. I'll pay you a visit again. If you're lucky.

jon said...

my mother was constantly referring to memory as a muscle. But for the life of me I can't remember why....

thethinker said...

I have a horrible long-term memory.

A few years ago, I memorized The Pied Piper of Hamelin, this really, really long poem by Richard Browning.

If you asked me now, I wouldn't be able to tell you the first line of it.

Joanne said...

Prija: Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment (and compliment)!

Jon: Oh, Jon…!

TheThinker: Yeah, my long-term memory is extremely selective. And then, I think my short-term memory is sometimes erratically divided into extra-short-term and short-term!

Winston Churchill