Many people wonder why they get bad grades, or why they aren’t smart. Others look for weak spots in their study and get advice on how to improve their knowledge. Some people curse their bad memory, while others ponder on ways to increase it.
Everyone marvels at the intelligence of someone they know at one point or another, but a only a select few develop a plan to emulate or surpass that individual.
This brings us to the topic of the link that causes drastic improvement of the mind; the bridge between the current state of your brain – and the elite mind it has the potential to be (think Einstein, Tesla, Da Vinci, etc.).
That link is memory. Well not just memory, but the exercising, improvement, and technique-developing strategies of the “Art of Memory”.
The Decline of Memory
‘Why is memory so important?’ someone asked me recently.
‘Why is it so underrated?’ I replied.
Memory has become an exceptionally undervalued tool in our modern culture. The reason for this can be blamed, at least partially, on technology. The decline of the cultivation of memory began with the Gutenberg printing press. One of the most important functions of memory at the time was the preservation of tradition, history, and knowledge through memorization and oral regurgitation. The advent of written language, printing presses, typewriters, and then computers made it more efficient to simply record information on paper or digitally. This resulted in the demotion of memory from the most vital element of human intelligence to a convenient but nearly obsolete skill (perception in this case, is far from reality).
The ancients had deep sense of respect and awe for the skill of recall:
The Grecian poet and play writer Aeschylus, said “Memory is the mother of all wisdom.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman orator and statesmen wrote: “Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things.”
They viewed the learning, storing, and retention of information as an art, and employed many different techniques to hone this skill.
How Memory Supports Intelligence as a Foundation
What they understood, and we seem to have forgotten is this:
Memory is the foundation of all intelligence.
Here is a short list of examples to back that statement up:
- Short-term memory is critical to multitasking anything.
- Remembering names, events, and happenings in a friends life for instance – this is essential to maintaining relationships.
- Humor – one of the most enjoyable aspects of any relationship – relies completely on memory of jokes, stories, funny experiences, witty sayings, etc.
- Long-term memory serves in learning a task and completing it well over the course of time.
- Think about doctors – medical procedures, terminology, and many, many other things must be committed to memory.
- Lawyers have to memorize their deposition and hearings notes, and often the points they want to make during the trial.
- Psychologists and therapists rely on their memory of the human psyche to evaluate and treat their patients.
The Case Made Against Memory
This list can go on forever, but then again, the opposite end of the spectrum is convincing as well.
- Why memorize a tedious list of information when it takes 5 seconds to Google it?
- Funny commercials or moments on your favorite shows can be sent over e-mail, or found on YouTube – why waste brain cells remembering the whole story if you can just send a link?
- You don’t need to remember how to change your oil because you can find a DIY video or instructional in less than 30 seconds online. Housework is the same way – replace the gutters? Google here I come.
- How about cooking? Grandma’s favorite recipe is plagiarism like every other recipe in existence – and allrecipes has them all.
- Shopping list – smartphone app
- To do’s and weekly chores – i-calendar
While it is true that technology has made some forms of memory nearly obsolete, it’s obvious from the first list that we still rely heavily on our memory, and that losing strength in this skill is detrimental to our intelligence. Consider your life without memory. Pretty bleak. And BORING. People practically lose their personality when they disregard their own memory, and here is an even more important thought:
Consider your life – your job, career, friendships, business relationships, etc. with a flawless memory:
- You remember everything that is going on in your relationships
- Your multitasking ability helps you in your job, hobbies, sports
- Your first impression skills are upgraded because you actually remember names, where and how you met, what they were wearing, and what you talked about
That sounds good – but is it possible? A flawless memory is pretty hard to come by, but if you do your research you will find that it is both possible and plausible to expect hard work and discipline in the art of memory to yield returns in the form of a photographic, and even eidetic memory.
…and a Story to Back it Up
Two neighbors decided to build a work shed (one suggested how great it would be to have a storage place for his tools and an additional place of refuge from his nagging wife, and the other followed suite). The first made a list for the materials he needed:
After he had made his list, he spent one evening traveling to the hardware store for nails, the next evening buying paint, and the next finding deals on concrete and wood. Then he began to work. He looked over into his neighbor’s yard (expecting to see him starting or gathering materials as well) and was shocked to see a freshly painted shed in the yard, complete with tools and radio music blaring through the open door. “How the…”
Then he remembered – his neighbor had a habit of finding, collecting, and storing materials he thought he might need for the future. He had areas on his land and in his garage neatly organized into sections of materials: wood in one, hardware in another, paint, shingles, etc – he had everything he needed before he started!
So while his neighbor was busy gathering materials, he was utilizing the materials he already had to build his shed.
We use information like the second neighbor used his material. Sometimes it is not efficient to spend time memorizing information you will rarely use, or information you can easily gather on the Internet, but there are many forms of information and knowledge that you will likely use on a daily basis, and some that is good to know even if you didn’t.
The Art of Memory
Most individuals in today’s society have forgotten or were never taught the importance of memory, and suffer a distinct disadvantage because of this. Don’t fall into the same downgrading mindset – your memory can be drastically improved using techniques that ancient scholars used – increasing in the art of memory heightens fluid intelligence and even physically increases the Hippo campus primarily, as well as other areas of the brain.
I’ll leave it at that for now, but I urge you – take up the hobby of memorization – The Art of Memory.
This is the missing link between the average mind and the elite mind. It can seem tedious, but using the right techniques, it’s really not. It’s rewarding, and in the long run it’s a critical investment that will pay intellectual dividends.