Curiosity Journal: Feb 23, 2011

Curiosity Journal: a weekly recap of what I’ve been reading, playing and learning; what I’m reacting to and writing. Inspired by Monica of Paper Bridges, I’m occasionally recording a Curiosity Journal. Tag words are: reading, playing, learning, reacting…and writing.Reading: One Thousand Gifts by Ann VoskampJust about done reading Ann V’s book. The world is a richer place for having her in it, inspiring us to the practice of Eucharisteo.Playing: Other than having coffee with a friend this afternoon, this has not been the most playful week or so, as I’m processing a few disappointments and focusing on some deadlines. Glad to have Ann V. reminding me to be thankful in and for all things.Learning: I found this article at NYTimes online to be a fascinating look at how to memorize. He explains an ancient Greek poet’s discovery in the fifth century B.C.:

After a tragic banquet-hall collapse, of which he was the sole survivor, Simonides was asked to give an account of who was buried in the debris. When the poet closed his eyes and reconstructed the crumbled building in his imagination, he had an extraordinary realization: he remembered where each of the guests at the ill-fated dinner had been sitting. Even though he made no conscious effort to memorize the layout of the room, it nonetheless left a durable impression. From that simple observation, Simonides reportedly invented a technique that would form the basis of what came to be known as the art of memory. He realized that if there hadn’t been guests sitting at a banquet table but, say, every great Greek dramatist seated in order of birth — or each of the words of one of his poems or every item he needed to accomplish that day — he would have remembered that instead. He reasoned that just about anything could be imprinted upon our memories, and kept in good order, simply by constructing a building in the imagination and filling it with imagery of what needed to be recalled. This imagined edifice could then be walked through at any time in the future. Such a building would later come to be called a memory palace.

A memory palace! That’s what I need—an imaginary palace in which I can store the treasures of Scripture or the names of people I meet. But…a palace? I don’t know the layout of any palaces to use for my memory work.Not to worry! The author clarifies that these so-called “memory palaces” don’t need to be palatial; in fact, they don’t even need to be buildings. “They can be routes through a town or signs of the zodiac or even mythical creatures,” he says. “They can be big or small, indoors or outdoors, real or imaginary, so long as they are intimately familiar.”It could be, therefore, a building such as my childhood or current home, or a path such as my standard running route. I suppose it could even be the layout of my favorite grocery store.In that “palace,” I would paint scenes within its rooms and along its hallways, each scene “so unlike any other it cannot be forgotten.” I personally don’t have the goal to memorize material quickly, like the author did, but I would like to do it accurately. The author stated that many competitive “mnemonists” who enter speed memory contests claim that “their skills are less a feat of memory than of creativity.”He explains:

[O]ne of the most popular techniques used to memorize playing cards involves associating every card with an image of a celebrity performing some sort of a ludicrous — and therefore memorable — action on a mundane object. When it comes time to remember the order of a series of cards, those memorized images are shuffled and recombined to form new and unforgettable scenes in the mind’s eye. Using this technique, Ed Cooke showed me how an entire deck can be quickly transformed into a comically surreal, and unforgettable, memory palace.

The author is a bit crass in developing memorable images to help him make connections, but he practiced a lot and became a memory champion. I wonder if I could employ the basic ideas—without the crudeness—to improve my ability to memorize Scripture or names?Reacting: Gas prices may be soaring to $4/gallon in the months ahead. This has me thinking about our weekly schedule and driving habits, wondering if we should plan ahead and simplify in any way.Also, another study exploring the health effects of low-level radiation emitted from cell phones is “among the first and largest to document that the weak radio-frequency signals from cellphones have the potential to alter brain activity.” I recall the conversation I had  yesterday with a friend, chatting by cell phone. I had that gadget pressed against my head for half an hour or more. New resolve: locate my earpiece and use it!Writing: I’ve been working on four messages for a women’s retreat (March 4-6). It’s such a different process, writing something to be delivered by voice instead of the page or screen; but I’m looking forward to a weekend with a lovely group of ladies!There you have it. A Curiosity Journal that reveals what I’m reading, playing, learning, reacting to and writing.

Credit: Palace of Versailles image by Aaron White. Used under Creative Commons license via Flickr.
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  • Comments

    1. This was delightful. I feel as though I was vicariously satisfying my curiosity simply by eavesdropping on yours. By the way, I think I found my way to Ann’s blog and her book following links from a review someone posted about your Not So Fast book. I’m not sure I could even retrace my steps to finding either you or Ann; I’m just so thankful I did! Blessings.

      • I had the same experience as you did when I visited Monica’s first Curiosity Journals–like I was learning through her post. And what a treat to think that Not So Fast is linked to her blog. One of her stories is in my book–she kindly gave me permission to publish one about hearing the spring peepers, about slowing down to listen.

    2. I caught your post from Paper Bridges. I have not read Ann V’s book, but I have tried to work on my own list of “gifts”. Thank you for posting. What will you be speaking on a the ladies’ retreat?

      • Hi, Sandy! So glad to meet you through Paper Bridges! I’ll be speaking on themes from my book, Not So Fast. How can we slow down in this fast paced world to have a richer and more meaningful relationship with the Lord? That’s what we’ll explore together, the ladies and I. Thanks for asking!

    3. I haven’t had much time for blogging lately, but I imagine this was as enjoyable for you to write as it has been for me to read. Maybe I’ll try something like this to get me back into the blogging groove. That and a roundup of my recent trip to Costco – alone! It was like a vacation :)

      • It was indeed fun to share what I was learning and thinking and reacting to! So glad to hear about your Costco retreat! ;)

    4. I read an old book that suggested to sit in a comfortable chair, to relax and with eyes closed “See God sitting on His throne.” Then to enter there with worship, praise, and our requests. Imagination is a beautiful thing (or not so beautiful) depending on what we are thinking. As we set our minds on the Lord, we can actually meet him anywhere. Even as RLR stated, at Cost-co.

      • Hazel, that’s a really neat thing. I was just reading about imagination in My Utmost for His Highest last week. Your comment just reminded me–I’ll have to put that together in a post. When we set our minds and imagination on the Lord, “we can actually meet him anywhere.” Love that.

    5. Ann — You are the PERFECT curiosity journal keeper, because you are SO curious and you write about it so compellingly! I’m sorry about the disappointments you are processing, and praying for your retreat coming up. Looking forward to a time soon when we can get together.

      Blessings, dear friend.

      • Thank you, Charity, for your sweet friendship! I have an e-mail from you waiting for my response. I have not forgotten!

    6. I love the idea of a curiosity journal! I’ll have to head over to Monica’s and tip my hat to her. Your learning section is fascinating. Thanks for this peek into your journal, Ann.

    7. LOL this is cracking me up. I guess I better get my act together and write my own CJ update. I’ve been stewing about The Missional Mom book (by High Calling Blogger Helen Lee), and started reading another book related to it, so that I’ve been overwhelmed with thoughts. Must write it all down! :)


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