Sunday, May 29, 2011

The march of time ...

... Are we “outsourcing our brains to the cloud?” asks Bill Keller. | The Book Haven. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

"OK, Frank. Call me grumpy," Cynthia says. Not at all. I think the problem is real, at least potentially. I just think we may be making too much of it. I have noticed, now that I have returned to work, that my memory is sharper for some reason. I think may be we just have to make some time to do things the old-fashioned way, things like memorizing poems. The way we still make bread, though we can buy it at the store.


  1. I agree with you about the traditional means of making, of doing it with hands and body, that doing things to old way can give them a solidity that the newer, more virtual ways, don't have. It grooves a skill into the back of the mind, into the soma, and the hands can continue on "autopilot" even if the mind wanders.

    I also find from experience that one good way to balance online time with real, physical experience, is those camping trips and photography roadtrips I take. I might be away from the Internet for a whole week! Certainly for a few days at a time. I might be able to check my email once a day, but I find zero appeal in surfing the social networks when I'm looking out the window at the Grand Tetons, about to go hiking with cameras. Such time away is refreshing.

    Memorizing things is a skill that one develops and enriches with practice. It's been often cited that one reason people lose the ability to memorize is that they don't need to. If we can look it up, why bother to keep it in storage? But while that's the common theory it's not always the determinative element in memorization. I often meet people who have whole libraries in their head of stuff they're interested in, and huge lacunae of stuff they're not.

    I sometimes think that memorizing a poem can be a pretty silly way to test memory, as memorizing a poem one doesn't like is always going to be harder, because less interesting, than memorizing a poem one likes. Interest plays a part in the process.

    I may be dealing with a chronic illness that makes me tired all the time, and my mind might sometimes feel foggy, but my memory is sharper than ever. I have been preparing for a choral concert coming up in three weeks; we're going to do the entire concert from memory. I was memorized a month ago, and have three more rehearsals still to go. So now it's about the music. Granted, I've always had a good memory for music. (It interests me to memorize it, whereas memorizing a poem I could care less about has often proved harder.)

    So I guess I'm agreeing with you, Frank, while not buying all of the other arguments about memory.

  2. I hope you're right, Frank. Let me know if you find any good tips on making both work. Unlike Art, I can't take days away from the internet.