I haven’t updated for a while, not because I have nothing to say, but because I’ve been swinging between those two unbloggable states of “sorry blog, I’m out tonight” and “sorry blog, I was out last night, and the night before that, and now my brain can’t quite put a whole sentence together in one go”. I’ve been burning ahead with my determination to keep busy and do as much as I can, keeping to my adopted mottos of ‘life is short’, ‘you only live once’ (now irritatingly abbreviated around the interwebs to YOLO, which is impossible to say without sounding gormless), and ‘in any given situation, ask yourself which is the more interesting option: to say “yes” and go for it, or to say “no” and stay at home’. Ok, so that last one is a bit clunky, but I’m working on it. Life is more interesting when you say ‘yes’. As Joshua Foer puts it in his recent book on memory, Moonwalking with Einstein:
Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next – and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and to have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.
Unfortunately the adverse effect of being constantly busy is that I’m finding little time to blog about my activities and set them all down in writing in preparation for that distant future when I look back and wonder what on earth I did with my 20s. If a full life is a psychologically lengthier life, what happens when you have a terrible memory and start to forget all the things you’ve done? I already rely on my paper diary to tell me what I’m doing from day to day; neglecting to record an upcoming event enters it into a mental lottery as to whether I’ll recall it at the appropriate time. Does it follow that if I don’t record what I’ve been up to, all those experiences might suffer the same fate? Probably not, but certainly the memories of events will grow hazier and lack the clarity that an immediate recording would preserve. If it ever gets to the point where I have to look back through my diary for the clue that will trigger the memories of what I’ve done just to answer the question “how was your weekend?” then I think I should start worrying.
So, I should blog more? Take photos (more) obsessively? Carry around a little recorder to make verbal notes on my life as I go? Or perhaps relying on my diary has led my brain to believe it doesn’t have to remember my schedule. The work has been reliably outsourced, so why bother? Maybe I should start from the other direction and work on improving my memory instead. I’m only part way through Moonwalking with Einstein, but it’s a fascinating read; exploring the art of remembering and the current scientific research into how our brains store information. It follows the initially average-memoried author on his quest to become a memory champion: one of those remarkable chaps who can memorize the order of several decks of cards in minutes and other similar seemingly pointless but undeniably impressive feats, and his occasional outings to go bother various experts on the subject (I now know all I ever want to know about chicken sexing, thank you Mr Foer). He details the classic memory palace method, how associations and imagery can be used, and many other techniques that I often think I should try to get the hang of and use in real life. My job doesn’t call for much in the way of remembering things, and there’s always the paper-notes-stuffed-into-pocket method (up until core memory failure leads them to stay in those pockets through the washing machine, at any rate). I’m starting to feel as though my underexercised brain will soon begin trickling out of my ears to the tune of “would you like a bag for that?”. Of course, learning a whole new way of encoding experiences to make them more memorable is bound to take time – maybe hours of practice a week – and right now spare time is something I’m a little short on. So if you see me sitting on the bus repeating random strings of numbers to myself, don’t call the men in white coats just yet: it’s the only time of day when I have a guaranteed half an hour to read, think and mutter to myself. If I start doing it to your face, you have my permission to take remedial action.