More often than not I would have one poem or another running through my head as I played in the woods or the creek or climbed trees. Children’s poems have a wonderful sense of rhythm and rhyme that made them easy to learn and entertaining to recite.
As I grew older my memory engulfed songs and lyrics. I always had words floating around in my head. The lyrics were a constant commentary to what was happening. If you were to ask me what music was playing in my mind, you would learn how I was feeling, what I was thinking about.
In Jr. High we had to memorize Shakespeare. Soon, quotes from Romeo and Juliet were jumping off my lips with a wonderful frequency. I challenged myself to learn Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.
As an adult, nearly all those poems, songs, and quotes are still there. When my best friend died while she was in college, my mind went to the words of sorrow and grief, and provided me a focus for my mourning. As I put my young daughter to sleep, I sing songs I learned as a child from my mother.
I can look up a quote in seconds on my phone. Endless literature is at my fingertips 24 hours a day. It may seem as if memorization has no place in our day and age.
But I’ve found that when I’m in the midst of grief or sorrow, or trying to calm a tired child, or even trying to get my mind out of a sad or angry place, that my mind turns to the words I know by heart. Like a psalm or mantra, they center me.
The phrases that I’ve deliberately filed away in my head are always there. I use them to focus, to be distracted, to find peace and to laugh.
My mind struggles with some types of memory; I have difficulty remembering faces and names. I may be the only adult who has still not memorized the times tables. I’ve had to have gym locks cut off because I forgot their combination in less than an hour. But words…words stick with me. Words have transform me.
My memories are recorded on Facebook and thousands of unprinted photos on my Mac. But what I’ve memorized stands on its own. It lends a cadence to my life.
Memorize what you love, be it songs or poetry or a loved one’s words.
Learning things ‘by heart’ still matters, because while your smart phone may get dropped in the bathtub, or your computer might crash, what you have placed in the vast vaults of your mind will not fail you.
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