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Memory Lost & Found

I used to feel great anxiety over my forgetfulness. I thought of it as a sign of - gasp! - aging. Later, I began to realize that I was forgetting so much I was worrying less; I guess I just kept forgetting the things I was supposed to be worrying about. That pleased me because worrying leads to aging, so less worrying must help to keep one young. See, there's an upside to everything!

Imagine my chagrin as I kept reading about a fellow who spent a year learning how to remember things. Then he had the nerve to write a book about the experience. Such is the case with the author, Joshua Foer, who recently came out with the delightfully titled book, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. It is not so much about memory tricks as it is about the importance and meaning of memory in our lives. Foer traces the refined craft and history of memorization and introduces us to the culture of those who use memory in competition, the mental athletes. Froer himself became so adept at using the memorization techniques he learned that he ended up a finalist at the U.S. Memory Championship.

I increasingly become aware of the importance of memory as I watch, astounded, as my child memorizes the periodic table, seemingly without effort, while I begin to have trouble remembering the name of that thingy I used last week to chop up my vegetables - oh, yeah, my food processor. As the names of people I've known for years fall through my mind like a sieve, and worse, the titles of books and names of authors, the names of reference sources and websites I've found so helpful, I realize it would be lovely to learn a few memory techniques myself. Foer's book taught me that much of memory, especially as it relates to lists, names, etc., is about training the mind using methods that have been used for centuries. Luckily, the library has dozens of books on this subject; they can be found under the subject headings Brain - Aging, Memory, and Mnemonics. Next time you come to the library, remember to check some out.

Now, where did I put my library card?