The Art of Memory

 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:11 I am memorizing the Sermon on the Mount.  All 111 verses by Christmas. A declining memory  is excusable at my age.  Expected. And I am no genius. In fact I have a very average memory at best. So why am I doing this? First, I am discovering the “art and science of remembering everything” as I read a book my son recommended to me called Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer. According to the author, “the average person squanders about 4 weeks a year compensating for things he or she has forgotten.”   I want to capture more – and forget less. So much of what I read or hear forms a brief impression but then is soon forgotten.  What would it mean to have all this lost knowledge accessible within me?   How many connections have failed to develop in my mind because of untrained memory?  Practically speaking, I want to remember people’s names and what they tell me.  This art of memory applies to remembering everything! Joshua Foer compels the reader to learn to think in more memorable ways.  He utilizes techniques known as the “art of memory” which were refined and taught by Romans like Cicero and Quintilian as a way to memorize sermons, prayers, speeches, and even entire books.  In their day, memory was everything.  A trained memory was considered fundamental to an educated mind as well as a chief form of character building.  “Only through memorizing, the thinking went, could ideas truly be incorporated into one’s psyche and their...

Growing Attention in an Age of Distraction

In last week’s post, I discussed a new cognitive condition called digital dementia which is affecting teens and young adults.  This condition is defined as the deterioration of brain function as a result of the overuse of digital technology, which over-develops their left-brains, leaving the right brains underdeveloped. The most common symptoms of digital dementia include memory problems, shortened attention spans and emotional flattening.  The issue of shortened attention spans is of grave concern to medical professionals and neuroscientists, as well as to educators who are experiencing this decline in classrooms from kindergarten through college.  First, let’s consider what attention is and why is it important? The word attention comes from the Latin words ad and tendere, meaning to intentionally stretch towards.  The phrase attention span literally refers to a kind of bridge: Attention is thus a bridge – the connection or pathway –  that grows between you and knowledge.  It’s the key to learning and remembering.  The ability to pay attention is essential in order to finish a project; to persevere through tedious tasks; to read with comprehension; to write with clarity. Attention is also the pathway to gaining higher-level executive functions such as problem solving, creativity and self-control. It is the connection between you and others; essential in order to form deep, abiding relationships; to listen, to empathize, to understand another, even to gaze into a baby’s eyes all require attention. Most importantly, attention is the key to intimacy with God.  Consider the following statement by Caldecott Stratford in Beauty in the Word: “School studies have a higher purpose than the acquisition of information or worldly skills.  These acquisitions will follow, but they are subordinate to...

Digital Dementia

  Our kids are surrounded by so much technology. Media. Each day I hear of some new social media form by which they connect to others.  It’s impossible to keep up.  How then can we guide our children to use digital technology beneficially but also avoid the inherent pitfalls? We are raising kids in a culture like none before; one in which they can carry with them information about any topic, both good and bad,  and the ability to connect to anyone, anywhere at any time.  No other generation has had at their fingertips the amazing opportunities that today’s digital world grants, nor the menacing snare it easily turns into. Adults, teens and even toddlers are mesmerized by these tools which are intended to improve our lives yet can easily become their downfall. You can find any number of articles about how technology can enhance a child’s development and an equal number of articles about how it harms the process. Same with social media. Everyday I come across new articles and recommended books discussing the impact of digital technology on our children. Parents must be wise. But how do we even begin? We need to begin by keeping the end in mind.  What is it that we want for our kids? To that end, I am beginning a series of posts on this topic.  Stay with me and chime in by sending me your comments, questions, and links to articles you find interesting on this topic.  I would love to hear form you and learn together. Today I want to bring up a new cognitive condition being reported on called...

Are Your Kids Digitally Distracted?

Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries.” 17th Century French Philosopher “School studies have a higher purpose than the acquisition of information or worldly skills.  These acquisitions will follow, but they are subordinate to the orienting of the soul to God, implicit in the act of attention.” Caldecott Stratford in Beauty in the Word. Reference:  The Digital Invasion by Dr. Archilbald Hart & Dr. Sylvia Hart Frejd Today’s parents face an entirely different challenge than any previous generation of parents because they are raising the first entirely plugged-in generation: one that is able to connect to anyone, anywhere, at anytime and readily access a wealth of information about anything they wish. There’s no denying it – parenting a plugged-in generation holds both new opportunities AND new challenges.  Teaching such a generation likewise has its blessings and curses. The vitally important challenge for today’s teachers will be to help their students develop and improve their quality of attention – key to the learning process. No one can dispute that technology is clearly the future and that we benefit greatly from technology tools.  Email is far more efficient than the postal service. Benefits include easy purchasing ability, instant world-wide communication, venues for social interaction, instant access to a wealth of information, and the accessibility of books including the Bible in every major language. One downside however is that we have become more sedentary as a society.  In addition, media tends to reduces daily connectedness between family members and frighteningly little is known about the consequences of significant...

Split Focus

“What’s more, the waning of our powers of attention is occurring at such a rate and in so many areas of life, that the erosion is reaching critical mass.  We are on the verge of losing our capacity as a society for deep, sustained focus.” “Without self control, we can have the strongest of motivations and set the highest of goals, yet we will invariably get sidetracked by the distractions, temptations, and obstacles of life.” Maggie Jackson,author of Distracted The brain is not hard wired and that’s good news! In addition, one’s IQ is not fixed as was once (and pretty recently) believed. False is the notion that the structure of the brain defines and determines its function.  The opposite is now known to be true:  function in fact determines structure. What modern science  tells us is that the brain has incredible plasticity – also called malleability– which is the lifelong ability of the brain to reorganize and restructure its neuro-pathways based on experiences. As we learn things, our brain changes.  As we practice and form new habits, these practices restructure the brain’s networking. This really is good news – and essential information for today’s tech savvy students. Through modern science God is providing us with the knowledge we need to address the learning deficit in today’s technology saturated culture.  We know that a maturing child’s brain increases in size and weight as a result of growth of the connections between the brain cells.  In addition, we now know that these connections form through specific stimulation.  Yet much of what kids do today is random stimulation, which does not...