Friday, April 3, 2009

Let's Forget About Memory For A Bit Shall We?

This story is true but confusing. It's not even one of those ones that's starting out all clear in my head and then may turn out to read like a jumble of random sentences that no one can understand.

No, it's a mess in my mind and confuses the hell out of me as I ponder on it, but bravery is my middle name, well it might be if I had one, though Mohammed or Brian are probably more likely to have been chosen, and I'm going to attempt to regale you with the pertinent stuff.

It's all about the memory, my one specifically.

Since my late teens I've been an avid reader of self help books, not to be confused with self abuse books. I went through many years in which I read no fiction at all, believing that, if I was to read, I'd be better off spending that reading time learning about things rather than having frivolous fun in fiction.

I was wrong about that and changed my tune, but I still read the management books, the pop psych books and the how to be a divorced Dad books as if they're going out of fashion. Sadly I haven't found a book that teaches me how to invent great similes and metaphors, they're as rare as a predictable thing in an everyday place, with cheese.

At a tender age I also realised what I think is a pearl of wisdom; the fact that most of the content of any of these self help books is either common sense or total rubbish, about 93%. The common sense is things most of us already know, the rubbish is worthless, like rubbish. But that leaves 7% of goodness. Goodness that can only be gained by reading the whole 100%.

So, I read lots of the literature and try to filter out the useful bits from the tosh, then go forth and do my thing.

One such book that I bought and read some ten years ago was about the memory, though this was the memory in general, not just my one. It was by one of those memory "champions", the sort of fellow who can probably go to a supermarket and return with the three things his wife told him to buy without forgetting even one. I've never met such a chap but I'm told they exist.

This fellow, whose name I've forgotten, started the book by saying that he thinks of the memory as a muscle, one that can be trained and made better. He believes that each person's memory isn't definitively good or bad, more that it all depends on how it's developed and used.

I suspect the logic makes sense to anyone. We all remember total crap and seemingly pointless information about things we're interested in. For example Java can remember the exact length (to the nearest millimetre) of each joint he's smoked for the last twenty three years and Dinidu can recall exactly how many friends on Facebook each of his Facebook friends has.

I know not how this nuggets of information will benefit the esteemed bloggers, I merely report facts to you.

So anyhow, I read most of this book. Well, the first few chapters to be honest, and was left impressed and quite chuffed with myself. I practiced the methods outlined and, before I could forget where I'd put the book, I was some sort of junior memory master. I could recall lists of things, really I could. Lists of random objects, perhaps ten or twenty of them, I'd be able to quote back to you days after the event, not that a list is an event of course.

I'd read, studied and practiced and went through my time going over these few early chapters in my head. There was linking, association and something involving cats. I felt as if I was going through my days training my memory muscle and, at every opportunity, I was the person who could remember all sorts of things.

After some weeks I stopped thinking about the methods consciously and decided to go back to the book and read the rest of it. I assumed the rest of the book would teach me how to do useful things with my memory, or at least things more useful than entering memory competitions and writing books about the memory. However that thing called life got in the way of going back to the book and I promptly forgot all the methods I'd so carefully memorised.

I reckon by now you'll be getting a sense of irony and a vague understanding of my confusion as explained at the start. I mean, how can these memory methods be so successful, powerful and life changing if I went and forgot them?

It's mad isn't it?

Well that's the background.

The story continues last Sunday, a Sunday that took place many years after the initial forgetting the how to remember things saga.

There I was, mooching around iTunes, lurking, browsing and perusing the wonderful virtual shop's goods and chattels. Nothing much on the music side grabbed me so I strolled into the audiobook section. Derren Brown jumped out at me with his audiobook about memory. I like Derren Brown, even though his parents could never make up their minds between Derek and Darren.

He's beyond description really, half magician, half psychologist and half hypnotist. I don't think he ever claims to be a magician but much of his stuff is more magical looking than many a rabbit in the hat type. So he's written, or spoken, an audiobook about the memory and there were a few references on iTunes that seemed to think it was rather good. I bought one, even though my cynical hat was quite firmly on my head. Well, as firmly as it could have been because of the furry thing with big ears that was inside it.

Now, it's Thursday afternoon, though you're probably reading this on Friday morning, and after listening to some chapters I'm back to where I was those years' ago. I can remember lists again.

It's freaky but it's true. I keep a list of the titles of blog posts I want to write. I used to write the list in my journal and, truth be told, I still do. But, I've also remembered it using linking things. In the old RD head is this complex but easy linked list of possible blog posts. There are about ten of them and the things I recall in order to bung up the posts are weird, they have to be really.

For example there's an image of my Dad playing Carrom against a sheep. This reminds me of the post that I've since written about the Carrom game against my Dad as well as the one about training animals, intelligence or lack of.

I'm sorry to inform Lady Divine that there's a linkage between one about incest and her. I have to visualise Lady D knocking at my door while there are some sheep comitting incest inside to remember other bits. It sounds complicated and perverted and I suppose it is, but it's working.

This post in particular is the last one on my list and it's preceded by an image of a cab driver who reads lots of self help books. Weird I know.

What I need to figure out next is if this technique will stick with me this time, or if I'll have forgotten it all in some months and I'll have a memory of having a good memory.

I suppose it would defeat the purpose if I wrote it all down to help me recall it.

Wouldn't it?

Oh yes, I almost forgot, have a good weekend too.


Cricket Tragic said...

Wt u say at the end of your post is absolutely true? Truth be told, i'm horrible at remembering wat my mum tells me to buy at the grocery store, but i can remember the index number which was assigned to me for my ol exam which i did nearly 4 years ago! I'm better at remembering numbers than anything else. You have to detect a pattern in the numbers if youre going to remember them successfully. Thats what i do with most of my bank pin numbers and i've thrown all those documents with the pin numbers on it, just hope that my memory doesnt fail me or else i'm in for shit! :D

PseudoRandom said...

I think different people are inherently good at remembering different things - I used to be pretty decent at remembering Sri Lankan phone numbers (UK mobile #s are too long for my liking) and friends' birthdays...but terrible at remembering stuff I actually needed, like stuff I studied in school :P

For the stuff we're not naturally good at remembering, we need to make an extra effort...and for genuine effort, we need to understand the purpose. For instance, I remember a lot more dates from O/L History now than I did when I was actually doing my O/Ls - because now I engage in political discussions with my friends and I need the dates :-)

I don't know if there's any one way to remember stuff though. I think every brain probably has a different way it likes to be trained.

Java Jones said...

Damn, RD - there was something crucial to this that I wanted to say but....shit! It'll come, just hang on....