[DAY 47] About Memory

“Forgive me, for my old age and declining memory,” Mom insisted on me telling her the story of my friend in California, trying her best to absorb every bit of my life away from her.

Mom never remembers anything! She forgot I needed to go to the doctor. She forgot to make an order for her company. She forgot what classes I took and was taking, and with that, she highly doubted I had good grades.

Nevertheless, despite the confidence of my youthfulness, I admit it has been hard for me to make my brain remember. Perhaps, it is the sad story of our generation, when we store our beloved ones’ birthdays on digital calendars and our tasks on online to-do lists. I still remember my parents’ phone numbers, because they never changed theirs for 20 years now. But that isn’t the case for most phone number exchange occasions in newfound relationships. 

Memory isn’t just a place to store past events. To me, it’s proof that I was once alive and living the moments. More profoundly, according to Carlo Rovelli, it is proof of time itself, because, without our memory, we cannot move from the past to the present and proceeding towards the future. We will get stuck in this specific second if such a thing exists in the world of no recorded memory.

I have been reading Moonwalking with Einstein, written by Joshua Foer. He said that we all possess the superior ability to remember everything, and he was on his way to the World Memory Champion. He was learning about the memory palace, which, if you have read Sherlock Holmes, probably can recall. 

One thing that stood out to me was how we all learn: the one way to gain experience is through practice, and practice is only useful when what learned stored in various parts of the brain through delicate uses of different methods of learning. We don’t remember an English word just by looking at it but by writing it down, saying it out loud, using it daily, and sometimes dreaming about it. Our brain is changing every day, and we, as a result, become more worldly. 

Another significant point is that what we already knew shape what we learn. For example, if one has to remember the string 120741091101, one can do so by breaking it into chunks: 120741 and 091101, and, from there, to 12/07/41 and 09/11/01. If you knew 12/07/41 is the day of the attack on Pearl Harbor and 09/11/01 was when Twin Tower fell due to terrorist attack, you can easily remember the original string. However, if you are not familiar with the facts, those numbers are as random as it is. What we knew shapes what we could learn. 

I’m exceeding my 300-word limit, but I don’t think I’ll trim any of these. I have found reading about memory helps me rethink my day to day activity, to stop believing that I can easily forget everything, and to make an effort to learn through experience. I hope this piece of information is helpful to you, and I hope you’ll find yourself unwavering in the urge to forget of the modern world. 

Published by Thi Le

Human.

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