Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Memorize This

I'm reading Moonwalking with Einstein- The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer right now, and am completely mind blown.  He discusses memory as a dying art. The current chapter I'm in describes how far we've fallen since the golden ages of the Greek. Back then, they memorized scrolls. They internalized words, and learned them. Today, we skim. We read billboards and text messages. Some of us read a book in a week, or a day. When we move this quickly, we fail to absorb the content of what we lay our eyes on.

Foer described one guy who literally compiled an entire electronic database of his life. He recorded every conversation, scanned every sticky-note, thank you letter and tax return into his hard drive so that he would have every moment easily accessible. While I think this is a bit excessive, (OK, absolutely mental) I agree that we need to take more in. Life moves too quickly. They say we forget moments at about the same rate we relive new ones. I refuse to accept that as truth. We need to adapt as a society, think before we speak, and act in ways we want others to remember. (And then make an honest effort to remember more of what we do, read, hear and experience.)

While I don't want to store every moment of my life, or  be able to remember as well as some of the characters Foer meets and describes, I do want to be better at the art. After all, the world's greatest books and documents, ancient literature, were written at a time when reading was completely different. When "reading" meant "internalizing," not taking in words on a page for the sake of brief entertainment. Memory gives meaning.

More about Moonwalking with Einstein and Joshua Foer
Go out and read it!!

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