By Henry Sherin
WE have learned that through the faculty of perception we have acquired very much information, but we must learn to keep the mental pictures we have observed or formed from our perceptions. It is not enough to view a beautiful scene and have it vanish from our mind, thus leaving us nothing for future use. We must remember it, put it away on the shelf of our mind, so that we may reach for it at any time in the future when we need it.
The faculty of perception is then useful to us only through the memory. Perception and memory go hand in hand. The perceiving, acquiring, and storing of knowledge would be useless labor if we did not possess the power to bring out and display our fund of knowledge when we desired. We must have perceived anything very clearly to remember it, and the clearer the perception is, the better will be the impression on the mind and the more readily will the scene be recalled.
We should train the mind to paint pictures of scenery or objects we wish to remember.
The best builders are those who have the building constructed in their minds before they start the foundation. If we would remember a fact, we should associate it with some old one we already have in store, and this act will serve to concentrate attention and thus secure it in the chambers of the mind.
One of the best methods with which to train the memory is comparison, if the subjects we wish to remember have any likeness to an old fact with which we are familiar.
If we wish to remember a name, associate it with some other name that is well known to us, and we will be able to recall it very readily. Often we can recall a name by going over the alphabet, and when we reach the letter that stands as the initial for this name, we immediately remember it. Or if the fact we wish to remember belongs to a certain class, we easily remember it as an individual of that class.
But in order to have any fact retained by the memory, it must be carefully thought over and put away in a recess of the mind and taken down often so as to become familiar with it.
There is no modern plan for improving the memory with a few lessons so as to produce wonderful results, and all claims made in this respect are of no value whatever. Only by care, patience, and continual practice can a good memory be developed.
You might as well expect a good singer to be produced by a few lessons. It takes time to train the voice, and then it takes time to keep the voice in condition. So with the memory. It is only by training and constant practice that the memory can be made to retain facts that can be reproduced at will. Repeatedly handling a fact will make the mind so familiar with it that at will it can be reproduced. As a student can be so familiar with his books that he can go to his library even in the dark and take down the book he desires, so may a man with facts he has stored in his mind take down any one he desires at any time.
As we naturally accomplish much more when our tasks are to our liking, we should endeavor to pursue some line of study that is very interesting and thus would be more easily remembered. But in order to retain our knowledge, we must fix our attention upon it, for without attention the impressions upon the brain cells will not be very sharp and thus will not be lasting.
Reading and study are useless if we do not fix our attention upon the subject matter. It is a common saying that when a student passes up from one year's course to another in college, he forgets what he has already gone over; and as a stupid, careless traveler may go around the world and bring back nothing but a hazy "It is wonderful," so the young man or woman may go through college and bring out nothing but a conglomerate that is useless.
Much of the so-called education of today unfits the mind for real work or service in life, because the student not only does not get mind training, but gets no fund of knowledge which can be used in the years to come. His mind is like a sieve; every thought and fact passes through it. This is the reason that a great number of college graduates are practically useless in the business world. Drifting from place to place, they are unable to earn enough for clothing and food, and thus bring reproach upon higher education. Every large city has a list of useless college men who have not been able to fit into any recess in the great building of the brotherhood of man. They are like the broken bricks and splintered timbers at a building, which have been thrown aside as waste material. Heaps of human waste material are cast away every year by the business world and progressive societies as useless.
Better read one book or study one subject and master it so that it can be utilized in the future, than go through half a dozen college courses and be unfit for the tasks of life.