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Author Topic: Do you have a good memory?  (Read 1267 times)

pantodragon

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Do you have a good memory?
« on: February 28, 2013, 11:06:41 am »
I heard the other day that getting school children to memorise chunks of poetry is back in fashion.  When I was at school memorising, or “learning by rote” as it was sometimes called, was also in fashion.

(To call this “fashion” is not actually accurate.  There is something more going on here i.e. power games and competing ideas.  What is in fashion is the “thesis”.  An idea, the antithesis i.e. what has gone out of fashion, is backed by those who want to make their fame and fortune and so they promote the antithesis until it takes over again.)
 
Speaking personally, I always had difficulty memorising poetry as a pupil.  For one thing, I never understood poetry in those days.  Most of it was meaningless to me.  Nor were the poems I was required to commit to memory of my own choosing.  The teacher chose them for us and, for the most part, I didn’t like them.  Thus the job of memorising was slow, laborious and effortful and contributed to putting me off poetry for a long time.

The need to memorise vast quantities of unrelated facts or poetry or equations or whatever else my education demanded of me, was the bane of my student life.  This experience led me to think that I had a “bad memory”.  Yet contrary to expectations, as I get older, I find that far from getting worse, my memory has improved.  Memorising is no longer a laborious chore, but effortless.  The following explains this phenomenon.

There is a common expression in the English language which means the same as “to memorise”: to learn off by heart.  It’s rather an odd expression when you think about it.  What on earth can it mean?  What has the heart got to do with memorising?  

What this expression is pointing to is the recognition that when one is following one’s likes and interests, memorising becomes effortless because one’s heart is in it.  This understanding has now been lost, but when the expression “to learn off by heart” entered the language, people must have understood the concept.

The way I was required to memorise, however, and the way people are still required to memorise, is “heartless”.  That is, one is being forced to stuff one’s memory full of meaningless junk, making the process extremely difficult and burdensome.  Not only that, but it does a great deal of damage psychologically.  Being told what to memorise, and, by implication, what is important, is a killer, is treating a person like a machine.  It leads to a loss of a fundamental and vital aspect of being human, one’s spirit.  This is what it means to become dis-spirited.    

So, memorising or learning things should be effortless, which it is as long as one’s “heart is in it”.

Jenett

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Re: Do you have a good memory?
« Reply #1 on: February 28, 2013, 12:06:13 pm »
Quote from: pantodragon;98896

So, memorising or learning things should be effortless, which it is as long as one’s “heart is in it”.

 
I have to disagree here.

My father was a specialist in ancient Greek theatre, who (up until his death) generally kept at least 2-3 full plays in memory, and had another dozen he could brush up on fairly quickly. (He performed a one-man show using them, alongside lectures on Greek theatre, hence why he had them in memory. Some plays - Oedipus Rex, Antigone, Medea, the Bacchae - got requested a lot more than others, obviously.)

And he also had a great deal of other information in his head: he was a university professor renowned among his colleagues for lecturing without notes and including appropriate quotes or citations from necessary sources.

And he *loved* what he did, deeply, passionately. And more than that, his performances used his own translations - text he'd lived and breathed for months while he was working on the translation itself.

And yet he also worked at the memory, nearly every single day of his adult life. He'd go out walking the dog with a legal pad of whatever play he was reviewing, walk for an hour, and then repeat the whole thing the next day. He'd review things from academic sources to remind himself what other people said and that he wished to quote.

He found that work joyful, he did not regret a moment spent doing it. But to say it was effortless? Absolutely false. Period.

I do not have his memory - mine is not nearly so well developed, though I have in my time kept major musical works fully in memory for extended periods (and anyone who talks to me for very long will hear me do the "Oh, X in Y book says Q and Z, it's in the first chapter." thing) I do learn things like ritual texts fairly quickly, but it's because of a few things, and it still requires effort on my part.

First, as I grew up, I learned more about how I learned best, and I know how to use that information to make it easier (and faster) for me to learn things. Second, you are right that it is easier to memorise things you have some personal desire to learn - learning an extended ritual text, for example, is more enjoyable to me than memorising an assigned speech in class. And third, it's because I have emotional resonance to tie the memory to, which turns out to be an important tool.

But I still have to put the time in. And I still have to put the dedication in. And there are, generally, other things that I'd rather be doing at that moment than memorising, because it does take effort and it does take time.

It just doesn't have to be miserable.
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Re: Do you have a good memory?
« Reply #2 on: March 01, 2013, 10:56:39 am »
Quote from: Jenett;98919

First, as I grew up, I learned more about how I learned best, and I know how to use that information to make it easier (and faster) for me to learn things. Second, you are right that it is easier to memorise things you have some personal desire to learn - learning an extended ritual text, for example, is more enjoyable to me than memorising an assigned speech in class. And third, it's because I have emotional resonance to tie the memory to, which turns out to be an important tool.

But I still have to put the time in. And I still have to put the dedication in. And there are, generally, other things that I'd rather be doing at that moment than memorising, because it does take effort and it does take time.

It just doesn't have to be miserable.


I had to memorize poems in school.  Some were of my choosing, some were not.  I still remember two of them today (after two decades).  Both were poems that weren't my choice.

I think of my memory a little like a sieve.  I am interested in a ton of stuff, and love to read and find out new information.  I dump a ton of information in my brain, and some of it sticks and some doesn't.

I feel the difference between trying to remember something you like and that interests you and something you don't like is attention.  When you are learning something, if it interests you, you pay attention, your mind is more engaged and focused and you are much more likely to remember it at just one go.  For me, the more senses I can involve the better.

On the other hand, when I am absolutely not interested in something, I am often daydreaming or thinking about something else while 'learning' it.  My mind isn't focused at all, is thinking about how bored I am or wondering how many tiles there are on the floor and trying to count them.  As a result, I am not really listening at all, and so even if I did try to remember it later, I am much more likely to remember the type of floor than the information.

That type of focus that leads to remembering doesn't always happen with things we like either.  If something really horrifies you, or scares you, it will stick in your memory better.  Perhaps you read a news story that is just awful, then you can't get it out of your mind.

I do agree though with Jenett, knowing your personal memory strengths is also key to trying to remember and learn things.  I am horrible with names.  I know that when I am trying to remember something the more I can repeat and associate names, the better the chance I will remember them.  Dates are also particularly hard for me.  Song/chant lyrics are typically very easy for me (which is probably why poems stick in my head too).

As for kids in school, I think some amount of memorization is good.  Teaching kids how to remember things, both things they enjoy and things they don't, is a skill they will utilize later in life.  It shouldn't be the only thing they learn though, I think many people, children and adults alike, retain information better when they have to think about it and process it....like when given an essay test instead of multiple choice.
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Nachtigall

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Re: Do you have a good memory?
« Reply #3 on: March 02, 2013, 08:45:47 am »
Quote from: pantodragon;98896

The way I was required to memorise, however, and the way people are still required to memorise, is “heartless”.  That is, one is being forced to stuff one’s memory full of meaningless junk, making the process extremely difficult and burdensome.  Not only that, but it does a great deal of damage psychologically.  Being told what to memorise, and, by implication, what is important, is a killer, is treating a person like a machine.  It leads to a loss of a fundamental and vital aspect of being human, one’s spirit.  This is what it means to become dis-spirited.    

So, memorising or learning things should be effortless, which it is as long as one’s “heart is in it”.


Education shouldn't be effortless, though.

We all at some point of our lives may need to do things that are hard, burdensome and unpleasant, but yet absolutely necessary. If we don't learn how to deal with such tasks as kids, we are going to have difficult time as adults.

pantodragon

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Re: Do you have a good memory?
« Reply #4 on: March 02, 2013, 11:22:27 am »
Quote from: Nachtigall;99157
Education shouldn't be effortless, though.

We all at some point of our lives may need to do things that are hard, burdensome and unpleasant, but yet absolutely necessary. If we don't learn how to deal with such tasks as kids, we are going to have difficult time as adults.

 
Yes, I agree with much of what you've said, but the subject was about memory specifically, and to memorise should be effortless.    The fact is that education does not give children the ability to deal with life, or to understand things: it replaces developing abilities with memorising information.

mandrina

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Re: Do you have a good memory?
« Reply #5 on: March 03, 2013, 04:40:39 pm »
Quote from: pantodragon;99180
Yes, I agree with much of what you've said, but the subject was about memory specifically, and to memorise should be effortless.    The fact is that education does not give children the ability to deal with life, or to understand things: it replaces developing abilities with memorising information.

 
well, you obviously haven't been educated then.  My sympathies.  My education gave me the ability to deal with life in general, raise children, etc and be functional at the job I do, which is nursing, specifically bedside longterm care.  The job does require memorization, I need to know lots of things off the top of my head.  BUt it was never easy and isn;t supposed to be.  BUt motivation helps.  I can still say the lord's prayer in french, since I was motivated to beat out all the catholic kids in my class in the catholic  school when I was the only non catholic.  It works for my prayers and chants too.

so in other words, you are talking of something you have no experience in.  not unusual for you, apparently.  go back and get an education.
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