If you want to live a memorable life, you have to be the kind of person who remembers to remember.
Our lives are the sum of our memories. How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by … not paying attention?
Our ability to find humor in the world, to make connections between previously unconnected notions, to create new ideas, to share in a common culture: All these essentially human acts depend on memory.
Memory is like a spiderweb that catches new information. The more it catches, the bigger it grows. And the bigger it grows, the more it catches.
The more we remember, the better we are at processing the world. And the better we are at processing the world, the more we can remember about it.
...who we are and what we do it is fundamentally a function of what we remember.
What makes things memorable is that they are meaningful, significant, colorful.
To the extent that experience is the sum of our memories and wisdom the sum of experience, having a better memory would mean knowing not only more about the world, but also more about myself.
I met with amnesiacs and savants, educators and scientists, to try to understand what memory is, why it works, why it sometimes doesn't, and what its potential might be.
Memory training is not just for the sake of performing party tricks; it's about nurturing something profoundly and essentially human.
How much are we willing to lose from our already short lives by losing ourselves in our Blackberries, our iPhones, by not paying attention to the human being across from us who is talking with us, by being so lazy that we're not willing to process deeply?
The way to get better at a skill is to force yourself to practice just beyond your limits.
It is forgetting, not remembering, that is the essence of what makes us human. To make sense of the world, we must filter it. "To think," Borges writes, "is to forget.
Back when I lived in Brooklyn, I'd sometimes take the Q train all the way out to Coney Island and back, and work on my laptop. There's something about pushy New Yorkers looking over your shoulder that really makes you produce sentences.
When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend.
Languages are something of a mess. They evolve over centuries through an unplanned, democratic process that leaves them teeming with irregularities, quirks, and words like 'knight.'
Our lives are structured by our memories of events. Event X happened just before the big Paris vacation. I was doing Y in the first summer after I learned to drive. Z happened the weekend after I landed my first job. We remember events by positioning them in time relative to other events.
One trick, known as the journey method or 'memory palace,' is to conjure up a familiar space in the mind's eye, and then populate it with images of whatever it is you want to remember.
Once I'd reached the point where I could squirrel away more than 30 digits a minute in memory palaces, I still only sporadically used the techniques to memorize the phone numbers of people I actually wanted to call. I found it was just too simple to punch them into my cell phone.
Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next - and disappear.
Kissing could have begun as a way of sniffing out who's who. From a whiff to a kiss was just a short trip across the face.
If you were a medieval scholar reading a book, you knew that there was a reasonable likelihood you'd never see that particular text again, and so a high premium was placed on remembering what you read. You couldn't just pull a book off the shelf to consult it for a quote or an idea.
One of the great challenges of our age, in which the tools of our productivity are also the tools of our leisure, is to figure out how to make more useful those moments of procrastination when we're idling in front of our computer screens.
Growing up in the days when you still had to punch buttons to make a telephone call, I could recall the numbers of all my close friends and family. Today, I'm not sure if I know more than four phone numbers by heart. And that's probably more than most.
Evolution has programmed our brains to find two things particularly interesting, and therefore memorable: jokes and sex - and especially, it seems, jokes about sex.
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