When I was a homeschooling mom (I miss those days!) part of our regular routine was to memorize one poem, one scripture, and one hymn a month. As Lyndsay and Dylan got older, their memorization projects got more involved. I can remember one Christmas when Dylan memorized (and acted out) "Twas the Night Before Christmas" which I must still have on video somewhere. And Lyndsay memorized The Declaration of Independence and The Living Christ as two of her YW Value Projects. Such inspiring, impressive recitations.
Interestingly, I had picked up a book over the summer and set it in my pile to read during Christmas break called Moonwalking with Einstein, by Joshua Foer. This is a book written by a journalist who was on assignment to cover the U.S. Memory Championship, and after a year of memory training guided by the nation's top competitors (who insist that they are of average intelligence and have average memories) finds himself in the finals. He writes about the history and physiology of memorization and gives us the tricks of the trade that these memory champions employ. Crazy stuff, let me tell you. It's very inspiring. And an incredibly fun read. (If you're into nerdy, like me.)
One of the things that I've enjoyed is the renewal of my belief in the importance of memory work. I was intrigued by the book because I have such an enormous amount of reading that I have to do in nursing school and the task of committing it to memory has proven to be very daunting for me. I wanted tips, and HELP.
One paragraph I underlined in my copy:
"Mere reading is not necessarily learning. . .To really learn a text, one had to memorize it. As the early-eighteenth-century Dutch poet Jan Luyken put it, "One book printed in the heart's own wax/ Is worth a thousand in the stacks." The ancient and medieval way of reading was totally different from how we read today. One didn't just memorize texts; one ruminated on them--chewed them up and regurgitated them like cud--and in the process, became intimate with them in a way that made them one's own. As Petrarch said in a letter to a friend, "I ate in the morning what I would digest in the evening; I swallowed as a boy what I would ruminate upon as an older man. I have thoroughly absorbed these writings, implanting them not only in my memory but in my marrow.""
I don't know that I can ever get to that point, but I can start somewhere, and I can offer the gift of developing memory to my children. My mother had us memorize poetry as children, and I had a Sunday School teacher when I was a teen who also included memorization as part of her weekly lessons. I remember great quotes from Winston Churchill and others that she taught us to commit to memory. One that she taught us by Alexander Pope, that you probably know or have heard:
“Vice is a monster of so frightful mien
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.
By the end of the year, they will each have twelve poems in their minds on which to ruminate. I think it will be a blessing to them in this fast-paced, information-overload, instant gratification world that they live in.