Friday, June 9, 2017

--- Memory tricks ---

I often need to remember things on the trail - usually directions, addresses or license numbers. Given that my memory has never been particularly powerful, at 63 years (almost 64), it is even less reliable - I need all the help I can get. I use the same system that got me through 10 years of college. It's the extended version of the Major system published by Jerry Lucas and Harry Lorrayne under the title, The Memory Book. It's still in publication, so, do yourself a favor and go out and buy a copy.

After learning the ten mnemonics for the digits and establishing your own standard mnemonics for the 26 letters, you can remember almost anything - long numbers, strings of letters and numbers (such as automobile tag numbers), positions on maps or latitude and longitude positions measurements, directions, instructions, just about anything but passages.

The Major system isn't to useful for prose, poetry, or the like, or it hasn't worked that well for me. I use other tricks for that.

Honestly, what has worked best for me in memorizing things like song lyrics or parts in plays (I used to get sucked into community plays with disturbing frequency) is over-memorization. After you've gone over Macbeth's soliloquy a couple of hundred times ("Tomorrow and tomorrow, and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace from day to day...." yadda, yadda, yadda...) it never leaves you. You wake up reciting Shakespeare. But there is an aid that is much older than Shakespeare and can even be fun for hikers.

It's called the locus method and it was used by Roman orators way back before the birth of Christ. It involves visualizing a very familiar place, such as your villa, and associating each phase of your speech with a part of the place as you pass through. Why not use your favorite trail?

At the plaza on the far side of the South Platte from where the Bear Creek Trail joins the South Platter Trail, I imagine a huge calendar flapping hard to blow people off the bridge. ("Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.."), but I ease by it stealthily and gain the other side ("creeps in this petty pace from day to day"), but - oh, no! - I'm attacked by syllables! ("Until the last syllable of recorded history."). And there's a big spotlight - what's that prison tower doing there? ("and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the path to dusty death"). Hack, hack! and all this dust - gotta get away! so I turn down the trail and run toward the plaza on the trail, but everything is cast into blackness and I turn to see that the guard tower was lit by a big candle which has gone out. ("Out, out, brief candle!") I'm almost knocked down by a strutting fret board (guitar or violin - I don't know.) worrying about the lack of a shadow ("Life is just a walking shadow, a poor player, strutting and fretting his last hour upon the stage.") I get past the fret board into a brief silence ("And then is heard no more.") But then there's this stupid loudspeaker amplifying the sound of the weir dam into a cacophonous roar (It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,"), but I make it past that, eardrums intact and continue down the trail to home ("signifying nothing.")

I guarantee that there is a high school student somewhere trying to memorize this very passage, and I've had numerous requests to do it in my best redneck accent (not difficult since I grew up in the South and am, in fact, a redneck.)

Believe it or not, it works. Give it a try sometimes.

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