The Benefit Of Memorization

My first encounter with having to memorize anything was in grade school, where the teacher said everyday was test day, everyday we would be tested on every sentence in the chapter so we might as well memorize the chapter. Memorize the chapter! But if I memorize all the chapters I would have memorized a book. Was I hearing this right? Yes it was a private school, and yes they have high standards, but I was thinking perhaps the bar has been set too high this time.

What amazed all of us was, after a couple of weeks, we were able to actually memorize a chapter. It wasn’t all about memorization with this teacher. In depth discussions about what we read brought joy to the laborious task of memorizing.

Years later, sitting in a religion class in college, where many philosophers were discussed, the teacher, after telling of his educational background in the best universities in Europe, presented a challenge. The challenge was this: read him any sentence from the book, which each chapter was devoted to a particular philosopher, and he would tell us who wrote it. Well, having practically memorized the book, I knew where each philosophers thoughts converged and diverged. So easy to accept his challenge and win. But I payed a price for winning. Nobody likes to be made a fool of.

Years later after that, I decided to learn Koine and Homeric Greek. After studying grammar for awhile, I bought a box of one thousand vocabulary words. What amazed me was the fact I considered it a small task not to be afraid of. One thousand words, yes one thousand words. No big deal.

For those boring meetings where PowerPoint slides are showed ad nauseam, it is always good to play back chapters from books, beloved poems, and songs.

The thing is nobody in class in grade school was any genius. We were just challenged at an early age to push our little brains as far as they would go and reaped a lifetime of pleasure from it.