Moonwalking With Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything - Joshua Foer I admit, I picked this book up purely because of the title and part of my drive to read it was to figure out why Foer and his publisher had chosen that phrase of all things. I guessed why pretty early on, but Foer kept the confirmation until the last chapter, and he chose the perfect spot. This book is very readable, sitting partway between and examination of the history of memory and a Danny Wallace-eqse "stupid boy project". Foer attended the U.S. Memory Championships as a reporter. With some convincing from the delegates, he agreed to train and return the next year as a competitor. Like any proper journalist, Foer also spent the year researching the history of memory: the attitudes toward the value of memorization throughout the years. Many people indict the internet for the murder of memorization, but as Foer points out, while the internet has sped the process, it started much, much earlier. Socrates derided the written word, claiming it would be the death of memory. Ironically, we only know this because his pupils wrote down his objections. Today we remember very differently. We have external memory banks as well as internal ones. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, calendars. I'll be the first to admit that I would be lost without the apps on my iPod Touch. I started this blog expressly as an external memory, so I could keep a record of my reading. Of course, none of these external memories keep us from forgetting a new acquaintance's name two minutes after we hear it, or where we left the car keys. More importantly, as Foer point out: "No lasting joke, invention, insight, or work of art was ever produced by an external memory. Not yet, at least. Our ability to find humour in the world, to make connections between previously unconnnected notions, to create new ideas, to share in a common culture: All these essentially human acts depend on memory. Now more than ever, as the role of memory in our culture erodes at a faster pace than ever before, we need to cultivate our ability to remember. Our memories make us who we are."The writer in me read this passage with a resounding "hells yes!" While Foer does discuss memory techniques in the book, this is definitely not a how-to manual (there are plenty of those already available). In an epilogue, Foer touches on the advantages and shortcomings of his brain training and how much and little it can be used in the "real world". What Foer did find was that, due to the emphasis on imagination and spatial memory inherent in many memory techniques, he was noticing more about the people and places around him. After all, you can only remember what you notice in the first place. "The idea is to avoid that feeling you have when you get to the end of the year and feel like, where did the time go?" "And how are you going to do that?" I asked."By remembering more. By providing my life with more chronological landmarks. By making myself more aware of time's passage...the more we pack our lives with memories, the slower time seems to fly."Cate