Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Memory loss is considered to be almost inevitable. I don't know if this is truly so, but I do know that as I've aged I have definitely become increasingly prone to forgetfulness. At one point the problem was bad enough that my (now ex-)wife insisted that I be evaluated for cognitive impairment. While I was waiting for that evaluation to happen, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I found two incredible tools in the battle to save my memory - both were books: Memorize The Faith and Where Did Noah Park the Ark. Of the two, it is the first that helped me the most. Memorize the Faith worked for me because it gave me meaningful exercises to cut my teeth on right for the beginning. The book expounds on the work of Thomas Aquinas, who in turn was relating the work of Cicero and the 'Memory Palace' technique of memory association. As a lover of ancient literature, I had encountered Cicero's exposition and techniques in the past, but didn't find them particularly useful. This book changed everything. The book starts by teaching one to memorize the 10 commandments - backwards and forwards, then moving on to the Sewen Deadly Sins, the Seven Cardinal Virtues, the Seven Corporal Acts of Mercy and the Seven Spiritual Acts of Mercy - all things that I used to know, things I feel I should know, things I want to know and remember. Learning to apply the memory loci techniques to these short, obtainable goals, I gradually realized that nothing was really wrong with my memory - I just wasn't using it properly. The technique of the memory palace is scalable and modifiable as needed. I don't know that it's applicable to everything, but it's certainly applicable to a lot of things, and I use it almost daily. Last night, at RCIA, after more than a year since I last tried to recall the seven deadly sins, I was able to put myself back into my memory palace and recall them all. What the Ancients knew, that contemporary man seems to have largely forgotten, is that memory doesn't just happen - it's a skill, one that can be learned, developed, and honed. Memorize The Faith is very Catholic-centric, which for me is a plus. Where Did Noah Park the Ark, despite its title is more secular, but teaches all of the same techniques, and includes usable exercises as well. I give both books a hearty recommendation.