My memory was never very good to begin with and now seems to be worsening in direct proportion not only to my age but also to my reliance on digital tools which make my memory less and less exercised and in many ways less and less critical.
Cross thinks I’m not alone, and I have to agree with him.
Before the invention of the printing press memory was everything. The storyteller, the lawyer, the physician, the priest, the singer, the philosopher… all relied on memory and utilized it to an extent we can barely conceive of. Memorization seems to be falling out of vogue in the schools (although my daughter was just cramming for a test this morning and was rattling off the phases of the moon in a singsong voice), and the standard response to any question is now, “google it.” Because we can…
As Cross wrote:
If the rise of books had been a death knell for developing memory as a tool, how much worse is the internet, which in effect serves as a substitute memory for the world? Regardless of issues of accuracy, almost all data is now placed onto the internet. Google and similar search engines become the key to accessing this modern day Memory.
And what effect on memory will come of the decline of leisure reading? Reading, which long served to teach and broaden the minds of educated people, is clearly on the decline amongst (primarily) young males, at least when it comes to spending long hours and days poring over long books for leisure purposes. Now kids turn to email, blogs, text messages, and tweets as primary substitutes for the hours once spent reading. Are we going to reach a point where the average person feels they no longer need to have much ‘data’ stored within their minds, since they can access it at will on the internet? Will high quality writing and the desire to enjoy such writing decline as people become used to the shorthand of modern communications?
We memorize less and we read less and we write less, and when we do write it is most often digitally. There is wealth of googleable (and yes, I do use that intentionally as well as ironically) scholarly data on the importance of writing to learning, which in turn led me to what I was seeking: the relationship between physically writing (as in with pen and paper, remember?) and learning vs. tapping on a keyboard. (Here‘s one study I came across which addresses this, there are others…). Fascinating, and yet another aspect to this rewiring of the brain that I almost feel I’m witnessing first hand as I watch my children and how they develop.
But back to this brief search, which I confess was brief, although I will most likely return to it to delve deeper at some point…. In the midst of it I discovered a new word (at least new to my lexicon), which I love:
Of or relating to the sense of touch; tactile.
From the Greek haptikos, from haptesthai, to grasp, touch.
I recently gave into one of my most fervent passions (addictions?) and secretly shelled out nearly thirty dollars for a notebook. A notebook? That’s it? I know, totally and absolutely decadent…. Just a puny little 5.8″ x 8.3″ brown notebook, yet I cannot describe to you the haptic ecstasy I experienced when I briefly slid it from its wrapping and held it in my hands. It led me to another reverie about which pen I would need to inaugurate its pages, and what special thing I might use it for.
There are two camps, you see, those who understand and can relate to what I describe in the paragraph above, and those who cannot. If you cannot you’d best stop reading right now…
Many of my friends and loved ones are in my camp and can relate. (My husband, on the other hand, thinks I’m crazy, hence the secret in the secret passion of my title.) We seek out those like us, I suppose. There was my ex boss and dear friend Ángel, with whom I would engage in pen wars and experience the deep angst of pen envy. And then there is my middle child, my beloved daughter, with whom on our travels I’ve often spent hours seeking out each country’s treasure of notebooks and pens, examining their bindings, the smoothness of the paper. (In case you are unaware, such things are true luxuries, often beyond reach, in many parts of the world.)
This new notebook is made by Postalco, whose mere website gives me a frisson of unadulterated plaisir, its beauty (cover bonded with “starched, pressed water-resistant cotton in muted colors,” paper in a tight pin-graph, begging for ink) justifying its cult following. This is serious notebook porn for those of my ilk.
But wait. There is a problem. I rarely write by hand anymore.
I type so fast my fingers are like an extension of my brain, it seems, and honestly I find it increasingly awkward to put pen to paper. Despite the fact that writing and drawing by hand brought me endless pleasure throughout my youth and into adulthood, now writing out even a brief note to someone seems slow and uncomfortable, as if I’ve forgotten how.
So while I dream of filling that chocolate brown postalco notebook with carefully inked curliques of thought, to harness the muse and spill it onto those lovely squares of its pin graph, it may well sit there gathering dust along with the others, the clairfontaine, the ones I got in Africa which are meant for Arabic and are bound backwards, the leather-bound journal from Italy, etc. etc. Tragic.
The littlest one I found the other day, curled up on her bed, writing in teeny tiny letters a story of a jungle girl, a page of which I’ve included at the beginning of this post* and the cover of which you see here.
Hallelujah! There is hope!
*Don’t worry, when she started her book saying that girls can’t be hunters, it was just a tease. In her story, and in her world, girls rule.