Why the 'Memory Bee' for HowToRemember.biz?

The bee is an ancient symbol for memory. Unlike a mere hard drive, the bee creates, gathering nectar and making honey.

Have you noticed the buzzing bee on my logo for “HowToRemember.biz”?

If not, I’m not surprised. You see hundreds, maybe thousands, of logos per day. “Logo exhaustion” will eventually be a recognized psychiatric condition (hopefully untreatable).

On the other hand, if you did notice, the bee may have bothered you. Random? What does a bee have to do with learning how to remember?

The Bee as a Metaphor for Memory

Actually, plenty. The bee is an ancient symbol for memory. As Mary Carruthers writes in The Book of Memory:

Trained memory is a storehouse, a treasure-chest, a vessel, into which the jewels, coins, and flowers of texts are placed. The reader gathers nectar from these flowers to furnish the cells of memory, like a bee.

(More on the “bee” in the Book of Memory.)

The bee metaphor goes way back, at least as far as ancient Romans like Quintilian and Seneca.

I love this metaphor for memory, because bees create. They don’t stockpile nectar, or obsess over whether they’ve lost a few grains. They make honey.

Memory and Creativity: Meant to Be Married

Today, we see our memories as hard drives. Either they give perfect recall, or they don’t.

Meanwhile, creativity seems completely separate from memory. Artists live in fear of accidentally spitting out an undigested chunk of prose or melody from someone else’s work. We must create ex nihilo, otherwise we’re mediocre derivatives, even plagiarists. You can literally end up in jail.

Modern “creativity” has a knife to memory’s throat.

But for the ancients and the medievals, memory and creativity were a happy couple, not bitter exes. You memorized the classics in order to create. A bee gathers from hundreds of flowers, and then it makes honey.

Look at Shakespeare. Did that dude ever make up a plot from scratch? And yet, he still acquired something of a literary reputation.

Actually, this divorce between memory and creativity may slowly be healing. Yes, the corporations are never going to let Mickey Mouse into the public domain without a dirty fight. But at the same time, thousands of artists release their work with Creative Commons licenses every day. The Internet “remix” culture is taking us back to a more natural, human world of shared creativity.

So now you know the reason for the “memory bee”. Creative memory.

Of course, the buzz may also help you remember that this domain is HowToRemember.biz, not the more typical .com, .org, or .net (all of which had been snagged by infernal domain squatters). But I certainly thought of the deeper, profound symbolism first, rather than the cheap mnemonic to help people remember my domain name.