Memory - A Universal Need
It is surprising how general is this weakness. Practical tests made with large classes of both men and women have demonstrated over and over again that poor memories are the rule and not the exception. Are you satisfied with your memory Is it as good as it ought to be?
The need of a good memory is almost universal. No matter where you may work or what your business or profession may be, every day of your life you need a keen, trained memory and can use it to good advantage. Anywhere and everywhere; whether you are a student or a teacher, lawyer or doctor, salesman or buyer, bookkeeper or stenographer, a good, keen, retentive memory will be a most valuable asset to you. Not only is a better memory a universal need, but a poor memory is an almost universal weakness. A good memory is very rare. In fact, most of us are like the little boy whose Sunday School teacher had asked him repeatedly to memorize a certain text—but Sunday after Sunday Johnny appeared without the elusive text, his memory a blank. Finally his teacher said to him one morning, " Johnny, you have a very poor memory, haven't you? " "Yes, mom," said Johnny, "but I got a first-rate forgettery."
Some conscientious objector may raise the question: ' What if my memory is failing? That doesn't prove that I am losing my mind, does it? " Certainly not, but since memory is admittedly one of the chief faculties and one of the most important functions of the mind, any weakening of that faculty must have a direct bearing upon the sum total of the brain action as a whole.
We may safely lay down this premise: A failing memory is usually accompanied by a general weakening of mental power. Often it is the first sign, or danger signal, if you please, of mental deterioration.
Fortunate is the man who recognizes it as such and heeds the warning. If he disregards it, before long his friends will notice a great change in him—they will note that his mental alertness is gone and comment on the fact that he is losing his grip. If such a warning comes to the reader, heed it—pull yourself up out of the rut by" your mental boot-straps and right-about-face. Train your memory and discipline your mind./ Other-wise you will soon be a candidate for fatty, degeneration of the cerebellum.
SEEKING THE CAUSE
Let us now consider the physical side of the case and see what bearing health has upon the subject. Some writers on this subject, such as Dr. Lorand in his work on Defective Memory, claim that the physical factor is everything—the very basis of a good memory. In a book published back in 1886, Fowler states, " There are many witnesses of a concomitant decline of health and memory," and also refers to " Strengthening intellect by preserving health." But the majority of modern authorities hold the view that memory is essentially a thing of the mind, and that psychology has far more to do with it than physiology. They feel that to work on the problem of memory from the physical angle is to put the " cart before the horse." While it is admitted that health has a decided bearing on the question, at the same time there are too many examples of vigorous intellects With a highly developed memory, in individuals who have feeble bodies to allow us to accept health or physical condition as the governing factor. So do not blame a failing memory or a weak one upon poor health or a feeble body. The keenest and most accurate memory I ever knew was possessed by a girl who was a cripple, suffering daily from physical deformity and ill health. We must look for a mental cause. Many who complain of poor memories lay the blame on some physical handicap, yet they do not give as much attention to their memories as they do to the finish on their automobiles.
Many volumes have been written on diseases of memory, the effect of shock or accident, in which the authors base all their conclusions upon physical hypotheses. But even among these there is a wide difference of opinion on many points, such as whether memory is confined to the brain or extends to the connecting nerves—when the brain attains full size, and a score of other points, more or less unimportant. On the other hand, many excellent authorities hold the opposite view, realizing that memory is not bound by physical limitations. " It was not the hands that remembered," says one, " it was something higher up." That something higher up makes memory a master and not a servant of the body. " It is not the eye that needs the training," says Atkinson, " it is the part of the mind that sees through the eye." Another writer asserts, " The development of mind depends entirely upon the will power." No less an authority than Bertrand Russell in his book, The Analysis of Mind, says, " I do not myself believe that the analysis of knowledge can be effected entirely by means of purely external observation such as behaviorists employ." Kay, who claims a material basis for mind, with strange inconsistency offers this statement as proof, " Every thought that passes through the mind is attended with a material change in certain particles of the body." But it is not the province nor the purpose of this volume to enter into the age-old controversy over mind versus matter. In days of old, a certain noted wit made a metaphysical jest in regard to the ceaseless arguments over matter and mind which disposes of the question with more wisdom than is usually to be found in such cases: " What is matter? " " Never mind." " What is mind? " " No matter."
WORKING FROM THE MENTAL ANGLE
From my own observation of many students in memory classes, of all ages and conditions of physical fitness, I am convinced that we must work entirely from the mental angle, regarding the physical factor as of minor importance.
In fact, health itself is more likely to result from harmonious thinking. The statement, " Strengthening intellect by preserving health," should be reversed to read, " Preserving Health by Strengthening Intellect." So often a course of study—mental awakening and mental discipline—results in better physical health. As the mental forces quicken and grow more vigorous, the whole body seems to respond. Of course, dissipation must be ruled out. As some one has said, " Alcohol helps one to forget his troubles—and many other things." The opinion of Lawrence is timely on this point: " Men are foolish who think they can deaden the brain with liquor, stupefy it with drugs, and poison the system with nicotine, and yet have a good memory. If there are any who have accompanied us thus far on our journey who think they can persist in dissipation and at the same time acquire a good memory, they had better stop right where they are and not hug that flattering notion to their souls."
Nor is this question of memory a question of age. It has been observed that the memory is more likely to begin to slip about middle age. This is undoubtedly true, for the reason that people are more likely to relax their mental vigilance about that time and to slip in many ways. But all ages are afflicted by weak or failing memories. The young as well as the old are often very deficient. Both alike need help. In a recent class I had a man of fifty, a professional man with a brilliant mind, whose memory was slipping badly. The student who sat next to him was a husky young fellow of twenty-five who had never had much memory to slip—a case of poor memory from childhood. Both received great benefit from the course.