Friday, April 29, 2011

On Remembering and Forgetting

Depending on how long you've been reading this blog, waiting breathlessly for me to write about something you care about, you may recall two posts I wrote on the subject of forgetting. The first one, which you can read here, dealt with the problem of refusing to forget past injuries; the second, which you can read here, linked you to a very interesting article on the importance of forgetting and the problem of the endless retention of information. Or, as Salvador Dali might have said, The Persistence of Memory...

So, forgetting is important ... but so, of course, is remembering.

The list of things for which I may someday be remembered does not include the excellence of my memory. I can't remember a $%#! thing unless I write it down, and then I can't remember where I wrote it down. I'm not as bad off as the fellow in the movie Momento, but I'm bad enough. I need help remembering.

Fortunately, that help may be here. I'm in the process of reading a fascinating book titled Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything, by Joshua Foer.

Mr Foer discusses how we have, over time, lost the ability to remember information as a result of the rise of writing, the decline of traditional techniques of memorization, and the explosive growth of cheap, long-term electronic storage. He also describes some of those lost memorization techniques; some of them, like the memory palace, I've heard of before, but never heard described well. From a linguistic/semantic standpoint, I found it fascinating that Mr Foer describes the derivation of the expression "in the first place" - it refers to the location of the first element of a series to be memorized at the beginning of a trip through the rooms of a memory palace.

The whole subject is fascinating, and I've decided to try to create my own memory palace as a way of being able to remember things for more than five minutes at a time. I'm going to use the house in which I grew up as the starting point, and I'll let you know in a few weeks how (or if) it works out.

One other very interesting point made by Mr Foer circles back to my earlier blog posts on forgetting: he notes that all the memory champions (yes, there are competitions for memory professionals) also develop techniques for forgetting ... for clearing out unwanted or unnecessary memories from the rooms of the memory palace.

Remembering and forgetting - important sides of the same coin, both essential for our mental and physical well-being, and a fascinating topic to read about.

But now, I need to remember to go get dressed, walk Nessa, and head off to work.

Have a good day. Don't forget to remember, and remember how important it can be to forget.

More thoughts tomorrow.



Mike said...

Here's what I think about all ..... wait, what was I going to .... I'll be back ... maybe.

Amanda said...

This book sounds very interesting. I used to pride myself on having a super memory but it seems to be going downhill these days. Think I'll go look for this book....

KathyA said...

Such sage advice!!