Learning, Leisure

In today's world of Google, memory as a function has been relegated only to the confines of servers and computers. No one really wants to remember the fact, data and dates. However anachronistic it may seem, I think, a good memory and a good method to memorize is a key to become a lifelong learner. If you are unable to remember the key take away from the lecture, if you are unable to state the exact clause in the policy under consideration or if you are unable to recollect the punch line in a joke, all that you have studied, learnt and imbibed is of no use.

I have a list of poems that are my favorite. Leisure by W H Davies, Even this shall pass away by Theodore Tilton, If by Rudyard Kipling and many more. These poems somehow speak to me. I love the philosophy that they propound. I love what the poet wants to say with those lines. So, as one of my long term goals, I plan to memorize the poems, so that they become a part of me.

Over the last couple of days, I have memorized the poem, Leisure. There are certain techniques that I used to memorize the poem.

1.            The first step was to read the poem and understand some basic background about it. Understand who the author is, in which context the poem was written, in which time period was it composed etc. This background information helps to create a unique place in our memory for the new poem. The poem, Leisure was written by William Henry Davies, a welsh poet, which was first published in 1911. The poem is written as a set of seven rhyming couplets. It talks about the business of life. It says that we need to slow down, connect with nature and enjoy it.

2.            How do you eat an elephant? - One bite at a time. How do you memorize a poem? One line at a time. Take a print out of the poem. Read the first couplet. "What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare". Memorize it. By its very nature, couplets rhyme and are easy to remember. Take each couplet as a chunk and remember it by repeating it again and again. Once you have mastered the first couplet, move on to the second couplet and memorize it. Then, repeat both the first and second couplet together.  You may want to look at the book and read it once again.  Then go for the third couplet and repeat the first, second and third couplet together. Then look at the book and read it several times. You have to follow this method till you reach the last couple.  It is like one memory chunk, getting attached to another chunk to create a larger memory chunk. Slowly, you will be able to recall one couplet after another and the complete poem in one go.

3.            Recollect the poem at various times.  Recall is a form of mini testing. It helps us to learn better. When you are shaving in the morning, or when you are exercising in the gym or when you are driving to office, try to recall the poem. Recalling something at a different place and time that it was learnt, helps to negate the influence of environmental cues and deeply ingrain the material to memory.

4.            If you get bored by one poem, you can interleave your learning by trying to memorize another poem. I tried memorizing ‘Even this shall pass away’, along with Leisure. This helps in even better access to the stored memory in your brain.

5.            Perform spaced repetition. Do not repeat the same poem over and over again throughout the day (You can do that! But it may not be effective). Rather, repeat the poem over several days. Say, first on every day of the first week, then every alternate day in the next week, then every 3 days in the third week and so on. Spaced repetition helps jog the memory. It has an effect of bringing the poem from our memory warehouse to our working memory. Moving the chunks of memory from long term to working memory helps in consolidating and committing the material in our brain forever.

Friends, the internet and Google can bring all information to your finger tips.  But unless you are able to hold large amount of ideas and concepts in your mind, cross pollinate them with your experience and rinse them with the wisdom from your long term memory, you will not be able to create something new, something astounding and something amazing!

Well, this may not be something new, astounding or amazing, but it is the final outcome of committing the poem to memory. I promise that I did not read this out from a book, but I have recited and recorded it from my memory. Click Here.

And here is another, much better rendition with music.

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