I listened to the book Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything by Joshua Foer last year as one of my audible.com books. Ever since I read that book, I was more acutely aware of how little we “remember” things in this modern-day and age. For example, I’ve been doing yoga on and off for 15 years, and I have heard the Sanskrit names for the common yoga poses countless times. But if you ask me to repeat one? No, sorry, can’t do.
One of the things that I wanted to do was to be able to memorize more things: Sanskrit names, song lyrics, famous poems, a few new languages, et cetera, et cetera.
Of course, I haven’t done anything in particular in the area of memorization yet, but I did find some solace in the saying “knowing the problem is half the solution”.
One finds motivation in all weird places. When I had my hair done yesterday, I told my stylist that audible.com was really good in marketing to me and that I had bought so many audio books that I didn’t have time to listen to them all. One other hair stylists overheard our conversation and said, “Yes, that’s because they are an Amazon company, and Amazon makes me buy 3 books a week with their deals.” I looked over and saw the book Moonwalking with Einstein on her workstation and took in the fact that books are universal gifts to humanity. She may not have gone to college, but she can be equally inspired by the thoughts and ideas in those books. Who knows? She might be a better implementor than I am, and might be able to recite the top 100 famous poems already for all I know.
In the book The Element that inspired me to write this blog, it described a conversation between the author and his brother Ian.
I said that I’d love to be able to play keyboards that well.
“No, you wouldn’t,” he responded.
Taken aback, I insisted that I really would.
“No,” he said. “You mean you like the idea of playing keyboards. If you’d love to play them, you’d be doing it.”
Yes, I like the idea of being able to remember names and phrases, being able to recite poetries and speeches and being able to speak multiple languages a lot. But only the idea, for I have not put any efforts in making any of these things happen.
When you have an idea in your mind, it is just an idea. Next minute, you think of something else, that idea disappears like a puff of air. Say you want to paint the glass on the table in front of you. Before your first paint stroke, there is nothing but a blank canvas. It is the act of painting that transforms an idea to a reality that can be seen by the world, including yourself. As you yourself cannot foresee each brush stroke at the idea stage. In other words, intention is vague and somewhat useless. The creation process is all about DOING. I’m not in any way implying that we should separate the act of thinking and the act of doing, because that would be simply ludicrous. When we do, we also think. I’m just saying that thinking-while-doing is much better than thinking-alone.