Your memory is amazing. Right now. It’s amazing.
Even if you’ve lost the keys twelve times this week, missed your spouse’s birthday five years running, and haven’t remembered someone’s name the first time around since freshman Orientation.
How do I know your memory is amazing? Because you’re reading this.
You Remember How to Talk
No, strike that, even if you can’t read and someone’s reading this to you, it’s still true.
Think about it. What happens when you hear a word, say, “banana”? First off, you’re probably hearing all sorts of other background noises: chirping birds, traffic, your own internal monologue. Even after you filter these out and isolate the voice, it’s still a stream of sound …hearawordsaybananafirstoff…
By the time you’re analyzing “banana”, you’ve already taken several steps. Instantly.
Then what? You suddenly see a banana! You might even smell it, taste it, or see someone peeling it. You might gallop away into associative visions of apples or monkeys or crescent moons or bowls of cereal. All based on a few sounds — bah-nah-nah — which you recognized out of tens of thousands of alternatives.
No? How about taking those sounds, then attaching them to arbitrary squiggles? Then arranging those squiggles into words, sentences, paragraphs, chapters, novels, wedding invitations, insurance bills, Declarations of Independence?
You Remember How to Eat
And why stop with the miracles of language and writing? Eventually you’ll have to stop browsing the Internet. Suppose you get a sudden awareness of a dull pain in your stomach. What do you do? You think, “Aha! This pain will go away if I stuff dead animal and plant matter into my mouth.”
Not content with this diagnosis, you get out of your chair (with the muscular tension precisely in the range between falling back and smashing into the desk). You walk to the kitchen (navigating your floor plan and balancing upright on two stilt-like appendages). And (confronting an array of small doors, mostly alike) you find some food and eat it.
Don’t tell me all this doesn’t count as your “memory.” True, all of this (except maybe browsing the Internet) is in the skill set of the average seven-year-old. But that just means we humans start out amazing.
You Remember How to Live
Besides, how about:
- frying eggs
- organizing a party
- driving a car
- the people you know, with their thousands of discrete “facts”: their tones of voice, facial expressions, habits, and quirks
- the myriads of shades of behavior these people expect in your voice, vocabulary, and body language
- which vary according to hundreds of social situations (which often clash)
Even a mediocre bore has to remember hundreds of thousands of things to function. An annoying coworker has to embark on an epic quest, both externally through the wide world and internally through mountains of data, just to get to work on Monday, find your desk, and explain to you how drunk he got over the weekend.
We tend to denigrate anything that any idiot can do. But this perspective is backwards. The tragedy of real memory loss, such as Alzheimer’s, illuminates the precious worth of our “bad” memories. We remember so much.
But You Can Remember Even More
So quit bad-mouthing your good memory. Obviously you’re great at memorizing all kinds of information. You’re probably only here because you want to learn more, but your memory doesn’t seem to cooperate. I’m glad you’re here! This whole site is here to help you remember precisely those things the memory naturally tends to forget.
The memory is a muscle and can be trained, but only to improve what it already does well. We’re not trying to thrash your memory into something new. Instead, you can learn how to speak to your memory in its own “language.”