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.

An original papyrus of the Sermon on the Mt.

An original papyrus of the Sermon on the Mt.

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 values absorbed.”

In today’s world, it is very tempting to resist the work of memory.  After all, we have access to any information we need at our fingertips.  But what do we fail to gain as we resist this work more and more?  Can my average memory become remarkably capable if trained properly?  I want to know. Just a couple of weeks into this memory challenge,  I am finding that working my brain in this fashion pays off.  And it really is not as hard as I had assumed to memorize large chunks of material. Even at my age!

Finally I am compelled to store God’s word in my heart. 

I find myself contemplating these memorized chunks of scripture through out the day.  They are more alive and penetrating, able to pierce my heart in ways they did not when they were merely words I read. I want to press His truth, goodness and beauty into my heart to drive out all that is ugly and deceptive. 

I pray for you, my readers and your children, that the eyes of your hearts be enlightened (Ephesians 1:18) as you purpose to fill your hearts with His truth.

Related Memory Improvement Tips for Students

Adapted from  Kendra Cherry who wrote about memory improvement for about.com Psychology

1.  Focus your attention on the materials you are studying.  In order for information to move from short-term memory into long-term memory, you need to actively attend to the information.  You need to engage your brain wholeheartedly in the process of learning. Attention is the major force behind memory. Therefore study in a place free of distractions such as TV, music and other diversions.

2.  Avoid cramming.  instead establish regular study sessions.  Studying materials over a number of sessions gives your brain time to process the information.  Students who study frequently remember the material far better than those who cram all their studying into one marathon session.

3.  Structure and organize the material you are studying.  We remember information in related clusters.  That’s why it’s important to structure and organize the materials you are studying, grouping similar concepts together or  making an outline of your notes to help group related concepts.  Taking the time to do this will buy back a great deal of time and improve results.

4.  Utilize mnemonic device.  They work.  The best mnemonics are those that utilize positive imagery, humor or novelty.  Another idea is to come up with a rhyme, song or joke to help remember a specific segment of information. Joshua Foer’s book is full of effective ways to use mnemonic devices.

5.  Elaborate and rehearse the information you are studying. In order to recall information, you need to encode, or program, what you are learning into long term memory.

6.  Relate new information to things you already know. Take time to establish relationships between new ideas and previously existing memories.

7.  Teach what you are learning to another person.   Recall and understanding are enhanced by teaching what you know to another!

8.  Visualize concepts to improve memory.  Pay attention to the photographs, charts and other graphics in the materials you read. Create ones of your own.  Group related ideas in your study materials. Highlight sections.  Mark in different colors.

9.  Pay attention to difficult material.  Resist the urge to put it aside.  Researchers have found that the order of information in which you learn plays a role in recall with what you learn at the beginning and end being easier.  It’s known as the serial position effect.  Therefore, give extra time to the material in the middle as well as to any difficult information.

10.  Vary your study routine. Occasionally change up where, when, and how you study.  Adding variety from time to time can energize your brain!

(Click here for an article on Moonwalking With Einstein)

 

 

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