Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Art of Remembering


Each Fact Should Be Stowed Safely Away Like a Library Book.

A noted medical writer likens the brain to a vast library and each idea or name or incident to the volumes composing it. The memory, he says, acts as librarian and tucks away each volume in some peculiar niche of its own. Now, when we call on Librarian Memory for one of those volumes he usually knows where it is and hands it to us instanter, but occasionally he, like other officeholders, forgets his duties. We call on him suddenly, waking him from his nap perhaps, and he cannot remember where he put the name of Smith or Jones, or the little fact regarding the tariff, or Agamemnon's wives, or something or other. Sometimes he finds it after a moment's search and sometimes not for days. But he keeps up a still hunt for the missing volume, even while you forgot all about it, and some time, when you are least expecting it, presto! there is the very thing you were trying to remember.

For instance, somebody asked the writer of this paragraph the other day suddenly for the name of a lady and her daughter staying near Boston. The name was a perfectly familiar one, being that of an acquaintance, but with the question it suddenly vanished. It was impossible to answer. Librarian Memory was asked for it three or four times during the evening, but it eluded his efforts completely, and for a day or two the event was forgotten. Finally, coming down town on an electric car, with the mind absorbed in other things, the little librarian joggled our elbow. "Here it is. Smithson, volume 41,523, shelf 217," he whispered. As usual, when one ceases to want the thing it turns up. Ah, if one could only change librarians when the old one shows signs of weakening! — New York Advertiser.

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