Memorization – a lost art?

By Heart

You’re asked to recite a poem (or song lyrics) from memory — what’s the first one that comes to mind? Does it have a special meaning, or is there another reason it has stayed, intact, in your mind?

In previous times, it paid to have a decent memory, to be able to memorize addresses, phone numbers, famous quotes or passages from books.

These days, cell phones store all frequently called numbers and addresses to where you can barely remember your spouse’s or even your own phone number! And, with GPS, you don’t even have to remember how to drive to someone’s house, it will tell you. (Though it pays to recall that 900 feet is about 1/5 of a mile or about 3 city blocks.)

The internet provides instant gratification when trying to remember what World Series the Cardinals beat the Rangers in, who directed E.T., or how old Barbra Streisand is – all of which are rather unimportant pieces of information, no?

Still, memorization is hard for some, easier for others, and cells phones and internet notwithstanding, can be somewhat useful, or at least add some depth to yourself.  For me, I think my memorization skills lie somewhere in the middle of the curve.

I’ve never been very good at reciting anything from memory.  I used to have to memorize Bible passages for Sunday school.  I did alright, because I finally figured out how to do it.  Break it down.  Remember one phrase at a time, then when you have that one, go on to the next few words. (p.s. I rather dislike quoting Bible passages to people or those that quote them to me, and especially when one knows the chapter and verse! See last quote below.)

Still, I am in awe of mostly television and movie characters who can recite whole stanzas of poems or songs, or better yet, passages out of classic literature, off the top of their head, at just the right dramatic moment.  How do they do that? Oh, right, writers, like me.

I wonder how people in plays learn all of their lines, especially those lead characters!

As I hear a song, I can recall the words precisely, maybe it’s the music that helps with the memory?  But, if asked to recite a song, I’d probably be able to do so, but I’d be singing it in my head.

I’ve always meant to put “memorize favorite poems or pieces of literature” on my “to do” list, but somehow it always gets pushed to the bottom as more “important” things need to be done.

I have made it a point to memorize certain quotes, even though I may not be able to tell you who said it.  Let’s see if I can recall some here.  I swear, I’m not looking these up on another internet tab.

Margaret Thatcher – I always cheer up immensely when attacked personally, because I figure my opponent has no political argument left. (I don’t have that one down pat, but you get the gist.)

Vision Quest (movie) – You should love people like there’s no tomorrow, because when you get right down to it, there isn’t.

Professor Irwin Corey (on Carol Burnett show) – It’s good to have an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.

G.I. Jane (the movie) – A bird will fall frozen, dead from a tree, without ever having felt sorry for itself.

And, now, I’m going to cheat, because I read “The Go-Between” when I was in high school, and this one passage has always stuck with me for some reason.

“I disliked the levelling aspect of this sinnerdom, it was like a cricket match played in a drizzle, where everybody had an excuse – and what a dull excuse! – for playing badly.”

Go here for the whole quoted passage (worth it if this quote speaks to you.)

I found that quote in about 10 seconds with a Google search.  Is memorization a lost art?  Does it have a place in a wired world?

Maybe I should probably memorize that “Go-Between” quote.  I’ll put it on my “to do” list (which is on my iPad) right now . .

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