The Memory Palace (Pros and Cons)
The other day, I was giving someone my phone number. Not an everyday occurrence, but it should have been simple enough.
I was all “Hey Brain, can I have my phone number”
And brain was like “Phone Number! Right! Coming up!”
And what did I end up writing down? 810-228-3… BRAIN! That is a number that stopped being relevant in 2002! You might remember that year, it was the one when we moved out of my parent’s house and no longer needed that neat Cobra cordless phone!
“You wanted a phone number.”
“YOU HAD ONE JOB!”
And thus the fundamental flaw inherent in the Method of Loci is revealed.
Let me back up a second, because this requires some explanation. If I ever write a book for helping parents understand challenged kids based on my own experiences, I will title it “A Fistful of Learning Disabilities” and if I write a sequel for people challenged by sleeplessness I will write it “A Few Sleep Disorders More” because that’s how the movies went! If it bugs you did I didn’t go with “A Fistful of Sleep Disorders” you can read all about my feelings on the subject in my blockbusting, best seller follow up “The Good, The Bad, And the Fuck You, That’s Why” but I digress.
Dyslexia makes digesting words really hard, ADD makes reading a huge pain in the ass to begin with. If you’ve ever had your eyes just drift over the words, but not take them in, it’s kind of like that, only the book sometimes seems to have been translated by someone who only speaks English as a third language and never actually learn Centari, but figured they could translate the book based on the pictures. Now make it three times more frustrating than that, because your basic ADD suffered is actually paying attention to every signal entering their brain, but I digress.
So while I was still young, and they thought that I was either what was still being called retarded or possibly a next level “Professor X is going to show up any day now” superbeing, suggestions were made. I honestly have no idea what side of the ledger Memory Palace came from, but it was one of the things I had explained to me. I distinctly remember by father told me about a method called Roman Room, or Journey Method. Now, I love my father very much, and he was doing his best, but can we all agree Memory Palace is a way more badass name and move on?
So a quick breakdown, if you haven’t read any of the links I presented…
Imagine that you are trying to remember your grocery list, a long and complicated list that would require a lot of work. Instead of writing it down and reading the list, you remember the list by walking through your home and look at a series of object you placed there earlier. You place them in the imaginary version of your home, not the real one. The idea is you remember your home pretty darn well, so you would remember the things you place in it. Now, either you place the actual physical steak you want, or you get symbolic (or even resort to puns) and maybe just leave a wooden steak imbedded in the floor. You’ve got a flower blooming in the window (get flour) and a bird sitting on the flower pot (eggs… probably?) and so on. It’s more complicated than that, way more complicated.
It can become hyper-complicated and even fractally complicated. Quick example, I’ve got a wing of the palace dedicated to each person I know. I walk down the wing, and each door has some notice explaining what that particular memory is about. I close in on the door and instead of just zooming in, I get as much information as my attention can hold. I enter the room, and the curtain has my mental notes about the meal we had together that day. I close in a little, and I can remember what each of us has, in a little further how it tasted, in a little further and how each morsel felt, in a little further and each drop of water that condensed on the glass and in a little further and I’ve suddenly lost five hours because staring that deep at the curtains takes time and energy and should only be done at leisure or because of a serious need. There is also the minor issue of other people, and for that the connections between them are connected by portals, themselves acting like hyperlinks to someone else’s story, while all existing in the same room. I said it got complicated.
The other problem is, numbers don’t work. Numbers are this… thing. That’s where my dyslexia goes into over drive, numbers are not and will not ever be my friends. I can’t even trust them to enter my head in the right order (I don’t swap letters around much, but ho-boy does 12 turn into 21) how can I trust them to behave when they get there.
So here’s the thing, I do have these lavish wings where I put events. Things that happened to us, conversations we had, they are woven into the carpets and sensations are embedded in the grain of the wood that makes up the furniture, but stuff like names and labels, we have to go to the library for that. And you’re thinking “Hey, no problem, dewey decimal, microfiche, computerized records… google. No prob, I totes got this.” AND I just laugh and laugh and laugh.
See, my mind isn’t set up like a modern library, nothing so easy. My mind operates like a medieval library, and the three of you who know what that means are cringing and clutching their teddy bears. See, we’re talking parchment scrolls, and vellum books with no note on the spine about what’s in them. Books were so expensive that if there were thirty pages left over at the end, you’d just write thirty more pages worth of stuff to fill those pages. Piles of scrolls and manuscripts often shoved into cubby holes and possibly only the head librarian knew the contents and location of each scroll and book. Possibly, sometimes you had to just read through and see if you could find anything.
And that’s how the other half of the palace exists. One half, an opulent palace, as the name suggests, on the other half a cold cloister, half library and half warehouse (Because there are stacks of banker’s boxes stuffed full of “Old Business” that I don’t wish to clutter up space) and while the librarians are often quite helpful they will sometimes just blindly grab into the cubby that says “Phone Numbers” and hand me any old scrap that their fingers happen to grasp. Normally, it happens to be the piece on top, but I find I tend to run a full speed through the place when I’m dreaming and things can get disturbed.
The sheer amount of information my brain has decided it can hold onto it also a problem, since we haven’t a Bing Search but a Brother Bernard a Brother Darryl and another Brother Darryl. The problem is that the person who put everything in place, and who knows where everything is, was Father… Ted(?), and Ole Dad Teddy ain’t be seen round these parts fer some time now. This means that Bernard, Darryl and Darryl have exactly zero idea where to find anything beyond the basic labels.
As a result, I got the wrong number.
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