Welcome at the blog of Dini Commandeur. I've written quite a lot of columns for various magazines. I also write short stories every now and then. These columns and stories are available for everybody at this blog. I'll release new columns and stories periodically.


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« Where is the eagle? | Home | A New Time »

Memory 1,000 Gigabytes

Column October 2007 Monday 15 October 2007 Recently, I read an article that stated that in order to train the memory it is good to solve Sudoku puzzles and to no longer use a shopping list but to memorize the needed items instead.  I don’t do well with Sudoku puzzles because numbers annoy me.
Memorizing shopping lists?  The risk of forgetting something is great, so, no, I will not memorize lists.  From another memory expert I learned the following:  To train the memory it is good to play the works of the composer Georg Philipp Telemann on the piano.  Why exactly Telemann would be of exceptional benefit to the memory I am not sure, but I take it that it was scientifically proven or something to that effect.  And why Telemann was used for such research and not another composer is also unknown to me.  Anyway, Telemann it is. 

Years ago, when I was still taking organ lessons, I had bought a practice book with organ pieces by Telemann:  “Sieben Mal Sieben und ein Menuett” (Seven Times Seven and a Minuet).  Our organ has long been disposed of but Telemann may be played on the piano as well, so I searched for the practice book and sat myself down behind the piano.  My former teacher had made notes in the margins of various pieces and from them I was able to derive what parts I had studied at the time.  After some hesitant attempts the music returned to my memory.  At the same time I remembered that while studying this music the first time around (how long ago was that again?) I had come to the conclusion that it is very difficult for any person with little talent to perform music.  The first wrong chords already presented themselves after a few measures and, likely, they were the same wrong chords I had produced before.  It was very discouraging, but the worst thing was that there were some parts I did not remember at all, while music usually does remain in one’s memory.  How was it possible that I found handwritten notes in the margins of the sheet music even though I did not recognize even the smallest bit of it?  It was scary.  Music lingers – we all have thousands of melodies stored in our memory and we can hum or sing along effortlessly with songs from a distant past.  It was unimaginable that nothing of a certain minuet had remained in my memory even tough, at one time, I must have worked on it for weeks.  Luckily, I suddenly remembered that years ago my eldest son also had taken organ lessons and then it became clear that those notes had been meant for him.  I could not remember the music because I, myself, had never studied it!

The relief that my memory was not as bad as I thought did not last long.  A few years ago, I had taken from the library the book I Know This Much Is True by the American writer Wally Lamb and had read it without putting it down.  The story is about twin brothers, one of whom suffers from schizophrenia, and the book is a family history as well.  I Know This Much Is True was a book to own not just to borrow, I felt, and I therefore decided to purchase it for myself.  However, I had forgotten all about it until, not long ago, I saw it in the bookstore and immediately bought a copy.  I started to read it once more but quickly discovered that I had practically forgotten the entire content of this wonderful book - unbelievable but true.  Just in some instances there was a shred of a memory, but the rest was lost.  It was shocking to discover that the story, which had fascinated me so much, had been almost completely forgotten.  I only remembered that I had found it beautiful and touching, but I had lost even the fact that the story was so dramatic.  “It’s a wonderful book, but it’s incredible how much trouble occurs in the lives of the leading characters,” I told my youngest son, who responded, “Yes, that’s exactly what you said the last time”, but that, too, I had forgotten.

Remembering faces and names I’m not very good at either.  Too bad for people I’ve met once before and who greet me in a friendly manner and embarrassing for me because I usually don’t remember at all how nice those people had been.  Telling a story to a girlfriend for the third time, now that is something I do really well, because I quickly forget whom I have already told a particular tale. 

Forgetfulness is a problem.  It often starts because we are busy and have too many things on our minds.  Thankfully, the internet websites do have some good advice on how to train the memory, complete with helpful tricks, and the time has come for me to start that training.  Wouldn’t it be great if instead I could march into a computer store and simply purchase 1,000 gigabytes of additional memory?  Of course, I would tell the sales assistant, “Please give me a 1,000 gigabyte memory with the option to delete troublesome experiences and unpleasant memories, if you please.”  Yes, it would be marvelous if you could remember everything you’ve learned, heard, or seen, except for those things you may or even should forget.  Sadly, a 1,000 gigabyte memory for the human brain is not for sale, so I’ll have to make do with memory training.  Considering that I do want to continue to use shopping lists, that numbers annoy me, and I do not appreciate Sudokus, I will, besides taking the advice from the internet websites, keep myself busy once again with Telemann, the composer whose works are good for the memory.  Maybe it will have some effect, you never know.  To quote the famous Mr. Cruijff (Johan Cruijff was one of the best soccer players The Netherlands have ever produced):  “Every disadvantage has its advantage”.  Even the disadvantage of a weak memory could turn into an advantage, since, perhaps, I would not only learn to train my memory by playing Telemann but  improve my ability to play piano as well.

Text: Dini Commandeur,  Translation: Maria O’Neill


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