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Ars Memoriae

Study. Forever. Undeterred yet annoyed, I shut my eyes to the world and venture into the first of my memory palaces. A relatively shoddy appearing hotel in Chula Vista, CA manifests before me, welcoming me home if only in spirit. The Golden Gate Bridge rises from the concrete miraculously, a veritable anomaly amongst the urban detritus. An ex-girlfriend's mother jumps down from the newly erected landmark and scolds me, before tripping over a tent housing Shin the Conqueror, a character from one of my favorite anime series. This odd scene unravels before me just as Noah Calhoun from The Notebook crashes through the cheap plate glass entrance door. This cavalcade of chaotic comedy may seem outlandish and ridiculous. That's entirely the point. This random, unbelievable scene has helped me remember that on form SF-153, the retention rate is 2 years. Coded in a personal, intuitive language I understand intrinsically, Ive become a potential Ken Jennings. Welcome to the the Art of Memory.

Originally discovered by Simonides of Ceos, a Greek orator of the old world, and perfected by a litany of passionate and infamous practitioners throughout the following millenia, the Ars Memoriae, or Art Of Memory, is, in my opinion, mankind's greatest blessing from the Lord. The technique is deceptively simple to learn, and, once the stigma and hesitance has melted away, literally as natural as breathing. Children, no matter their later skill at writing or rhetoric, learn chiefly through pictures and association. These two seemingly unrelated actions form the base metals of the key that truly unlock the unimaginable, incalculable potential of the human brain. People painfully attach rote struggle and excessive repetition to memorization. Flashcards ease the anguish, but are ultimately an exterior aid. Constant, excessive bombarding of the mind by writing, reading or saying a fact, phrase or term monotonously, praying that a modicum of it will stick, is trite and archaic. There is a new way, which isnt all that undiscovered in the first place

The mind's most powerful faculty is its ability to spatially reason. If I asked you to visualize and recount every detail of your childhood home, then relate it all to me in excrutiatingly exacting detail, it would be instantaneous and effortless. You could do this at any time, whether fresh as an untouched rose or as beleagured as a binge drinker on the back end of a 3 day bender. But, if I handed you a list of just 6 items and gave you 15 minutes to memorize it, then asked you to relate it back to me an hour later, youd be lucky if you plodded halfway through before sheepishly surrendering to defeat. The former example works harmoniously and synergistically with your natural talents, while the latter is as alien as demanding that you flap your arms and rise aloft like a bird if prey. So, why is the arduous one the preferred method of 99% of people?

Do something for me. Of course, Ill have no way of knowing that youve kept your end of the deal and acted in accordance with the truth. We'll have to just agree to Scout's Honor, although Im one horrible fucking Boy Scout. Do as I said earlier and imagine your childhood home in every scrumptuous, nostalgic detail. Not just visually of course, engage all of your senses. Feel the swaying, lush grass beneath your feet as you relive games of football and catch in your backyard. Partake in the aromatic ecstasy of your Mother baking your favored dish. For a Mexican family, we ate alot of pasta. Hear the walls rumbling as warring speakers rage from your older brother's room, guitar wailing and bass thumping. Taste the memories, they're potent and ephermeral.

Now, look at this list.

 1.  Apple
 2. Gumdrop
 3. Arnold Schwarzenegger
 4. Christy Hemme
 5. 69 Mustang

Mentally place these 5 lucid, instantly identifiable objects in one room each. Perhaps an apple, exaggerated and anthropomorphic, is ricocheting down your chimney like Santa Claus. You turn the handle on your faucet and an army of gumdrops cascade forth fancifully, a fantasy of Willy Wonka's gone mad. You enter your room and encounter Christy Hemme, naked and waiting in your childhood bed. My dream, get your own. The point of it all is to visualize and believe that these things and people are there, tangibly and vividly. Spend 10 minutes gazing at the mental images, then rest. Check on them again an hour later, then the next morning. Do this for a week. I guarantee you wont forget them. Ever, so long as you stroll through every few days. What seems like a party trick, harmlessly entertaining, is absolutely devastating  when applied to the real world.

Its no great secret that Ive performed rather underwhelmingly in my military career. While my friends and subtle acquaintances collected rank, money and prestige, I've floundered and rebelled in several acts of misguided rage. The same mind that memorized poker mathematics and the hidden probabilities lurking behind a flipping card couldnt be bothered to study 10 sentences. But, whether do to age or a general restlessness brought on by ignominy and impotence, Ive turned my considerable talents towards my exams. Information is assimilated daily and doubt is decimated with every fact consumed. The confidence I feel as I symbiotically absorb the required knowledge is intoxicating. I see my fellow servicemembers stopping over flashcards, clutching them like theyre the manna of life itself. To know that my orbs and vessels of wisdom are firmly sequestered in my mind, by way of a gifted hippocampus, is a nearly unfathomable boost to my confidence. This art has changed my life the same way exercise has. Discipline, dilligence and desire are all that are required of me to succeed. I will pay these in spades if its required of me.

If youre interested in this arcane practice, I reccommend the work of the inimitable Dominic O'Brien. Many others have written and practised the skills of memorization, but the man is the Messiah of Memory. Coming from a guy that believed he was destined for manual labor because he was ridiculed as moronic, asinine and idiotic, you dont have to be an unwilling vassal of ignorance and stupidity. Take care and study well. To the summit.

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