(Folks, while I've been sick and trying to rest, Ms. K.M. has graciously contributed some blogs. Don't forget, this is a new feature here. I hope you'll accept my heartfelt thanks for your prayers and well wishes. I am going to continue to rest this week, and hopefully be back with you soon. Because of this I will be blogging more "thinly" the next couple of weeks until I can get back on my daily schedule. God bless. JPF)
One of the great challenges in this age of easy access to information is how to retain memorization ability. We often hear people complaining that they can’t remember anything, and we remark to those with such a facility that they have a “great memory.” So is this ability innate or is it something that anyone can adopt?
I remember Charles Wang of Computer Associates once remark in Information Week that he hired programmers who could remember “64 objects located in 64 rooms of a giant house.” In his view, structured recall was an essential element in a great programmer.
Well lo and behold a recent article in the journal Neuron relating the results of a study of memory carried out by scientists from the Max Plank Institute, Stanford University, and Radbound University in the Netherlands. The team studied “memory athletes” and controls in an effort to understand if ordinary people could be taught the “art of memory.”
If the expression, “the art of memory” rings a bell, that’s because Joseph Farrell wrote about the art of memory in Thrice Great Hermetica and the Janus Age. It’s also the title of a book by that jaw-dropping scholar of history, Frances Yates, of the Warburg Institute and the University of London. Her book, The Art of Memory, describes for us the ancient mnemonic techniques, copied from the Greeks, and they learned it from the Egyptians. Who the Egyptians learned it from is anyone’s guess. Memory systems evolved in the long past when paper and writing did not exist or were difficult to access after cataclysms destroyed other methods of recording and recall.
One of the techniques described in the study calls to punctuate something someone wants to remember by associating it with some terrifying event. It seems that human memory works best when it tackles the primary functions of food, shelter, safety and sex. This should be a surprise to no one. One of the challenges in analysis of ancient texts is the inevitable feeling that one is reading a garbled version of “something else.” The texts of the ancient myths, for example, are outlandish and unbelievable to modern minds. Perhaps these stories were punctuated by the descendant receivers in order to solidify them.
Well, now you too can cultivate your inner genius and learn these techniques in an ordered way. A KickStarter campaign is now active to bring you software based upon these ancient techniques.
With memory training, after several weeks, the very performance behavior of the brain changes and memory skills translate into better functioning all around. So the performance changes wrought by the techniques are somewhat permanent if refreshed from time to time.
Joseph and I share the view that encouraging analogical thinking has even a more profound impact on memory than the techniques described in the study. Why? Analogy allows mosaics of thought to be constructed, stored, remembered and imbued with meaning and purpose, which is both a powerful motivator and the benefit; and which goes infinitely beyond the rote techniques in the study because the value of the information picture, your personal information field if you will, is so high.
Since the chemical, biological, and educational assault of the last 65 years on humanity are the techniques of a revolutionary process to create a cultural tabula rasa for which a new religion, a new politics, and a new culture are to be imprinted on all humankind, now you can, using the Art of Memory, develop even better ways of coping.
So it has never been a better time to study the truest history you can find, remember it using the techniques of the ancients, and please share it, so that the perilous songs of the post modern sirens, so compelling in their attraction, will not draw Western culture to further calamity on the rocks of the post modern shore.