Friday, September 26, 2014

Still remembering after all these years

Courtesy DoctorsHangout.com
I've been talking a bit about memorising again in this blog, and have started to work my way back through the pieces - Scripture extracts and poems - that I've learnt over the years. After working over the last year on the huge Psalm 119 with its 176 verses (around about 360 lines; some verses have three lines as opposed to two) and its repetitions that vary marginally but can be confusing to keep in the right place, everything else seems a piece of cake.

It's been intriguing to come back to the pieces I'd memorised in the past - which I've revised more than a couple of times over the years - and find that they're mostly intact. I've now caught up with nine of them, and only one has proved hard to get back into. The others have mostly picked themselves up again during a half an hour's walk with the dog. Which has surprised me. I thought I might be starting almost from scratch, but in fact, the memory has kept hold of these lines over the years, parked them somewhere in the archives, went off and found them now that I need them again, and after a bit of dusting off and polishing, has brought them back into the main store.

As I say, only one has proved hard to get to grips with. Some of the lines were intact, but others took some real relearning. This was another Psalm, as it happens. Number 37, which, like Psalm 119, has quite a bit of repetition built into it. Furthermore, it doesn't flow logically from one thing to another. It's as if the writer decided he has a theme and he has to hammer it home, revolving around and around it until he's satisfied that he's covered all his bases. The fact that to the reader it seems like he's gone into a bit of overkill is another matter.

Another Psalm (139) came back much more easily, and there was a reason for this. Like 37, it has a focus and comes at it from all sorts of angles. But I'd first learned this psalm by adding a tune (of sorts) to it, and between the remembering of the tune and the revising of the words, it came back to me within the proverbial half-hour dog-walk.

All this is encouraging because I'm due to hit the big 70 next year (all things being equal, and God willing) and I'm heading into that time of life when things can go wrong with the body and the mind - if they haven't already. I could still get dementia/Alzheimer's (two blood relations, an aunt and an uncle, have had it) so I'm not assuming that doing all this memory work will necessarily stave off trouble with the brain. No one really knows, although we keep on saying that keeping the brain active and creative is supposed to help.

But apart from whatever might happen in the future, what this ability to remember stuff is saying is that the brain never stops enjoying working. The idea that our brains kind of go into old age mode after a while is a nonsense; it seems that they're much more likely to keep functioning even when the body is having problems if we encourage them. (By the way, I note that a recent movie is using the other piece of nonsense about us only ever using ten percent of our brains as its tagline. That bit of twaddle was discredited decades ago.)


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