Saturday, August 11, 2012

Memory and me

Forgetfulness, as I think I may have said before, though I can’t quite remember where or when, is a greatly underestimated attribute.

We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it. It is that second type that I see as well-directed forgetfulness. Just look at those poor people who appear on TV general knowledge contests and seem to know everything.

Their brains must be absolutely cluttered up with the stuff like names, dates, chemical elements, results of sporting encounters, kings, queens, Latin terms for flowering plants... the list is endless.

Yet the vast majority of such things can be looked up in seconds. Why fill your mind with it all and risk leaving no room for wisdom?

I have always been an advocate of FOM, the thinking person’s answer to a computer’s RAM, or random Access Memory. FOM is Forget Only Memory.

It’s a way of storing just a trace of anything that goes in one ear and out the other. Things you once knew, albeit briefly, and if pushed, you can work out where you saw them and find them again.

The brain is too important an organ to fill facts. Just put them away somewhere safe and keep a short mental note of where they are, leaving your mind free for higher things.

As far as I can see, this technique has only one disadvantage, which I discovered at the weekend. I forget where I was at the time or what I was doing, but I had to fill in details of something or other on a form and add the date at the bottom.

I must confess to feeling a degree of embarrassment when, after filling in the day and the month, I could not remember what year it was. I had a strong feeling it was 2010 or 2011, but was not sure which.

Fortunately, thanks to my writing skills, I knew that I was 22, and cannot forget when it began, so I added one to the other and came up with 2011 for the year, which turned out to be spot-on.

Thinking about this lapse, I suddenly realised why it had happened: plastic money. In the days before credit cards and debit cards, we had to write cheques for everything and cheques had to have a date on them.

By the end of the first week in January, we had written the year so many times, there was no forgetting it. Nowadays, it’s just the PIN and perhaps the three-digit doodah from the back of the card that anyone is interested in.

There are still many things that are worth remembering, such as the word for a point on a mammal’s back that it cannot reach to scratch. It’s ‘acnestis’ in case you have forgotten, and it’s very difficult to look up if you ever do forget it.

Having delegated so many of our memories, such as telephone numbers and passwords, to our mobiles and computes, there must be a danger that we are all losing the ability to remember the vital acnestes in life.

Personally I can be confident. I have written ‘2012’ on a piece of paper and put it securely in my top pocket.

I would strongly advise you all to do the same thing before it is too late or 2013, whichever comes sooner.


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