Memories Are Made of This

At Church Group last night, one of the subjects under discussion was “Do you have a good memory, and what do you do to help you remember things?”.

I’ve got a really good memory for stupid irrelevant facts I learned twenty years ago: As Jenny will tell you, I can also remember things she’s done or said back in the dim and distant, and trot them out ad nauseam. For example, have I told you the story about the “Girls v Boys Trivial Pursuit” competition back in 1992…?

*Paul gets sharply kicked in the ribs by Jenny, and gets the blog entry back on topic*

My problem is with all this phenomenonenomenal memory, I still can’t remember things that happened last week, or stuff that I said yesterday I’d do today. Most people said much the same thing, and said the only way they can keep track at work is to make lists: Whenever I try that, I lose the list – mind you, those of you who’ve seen the photos of my desk won’t be surprised at that.

I have a theory about why so many people these days have memory problems: It’s not that our memories are getting worse, it’s because we have more and more stuff to remember. I read somewhere – can’t remember where, which is appropriate – that an average man in the thirteenth century came across less information in his whole life, than now appears in one edition of the New York Times. Even then, they used memory tricks to help them remember the important stuff: “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky at morning, shepherd’s warning” was the limit of meteorological knowledge back then, or the seafarer’s equivalent: “If mast go ‘bong’, wind be too strong”. I guess if you’re a peasant farmer spending your whole life up to your knees in ox manure, you don’t have too many important appointments to remember either.

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