For most of our younger years, we are required to remember things. Children wonder if enough room exists in their heads to store all of this stuff. Of course, our super-computers manage to process the information and keep it for the rest of our lives.
Many of us memorized things at church. We learned to put our hands together and then to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Before long, that recitation was one way we could participate in “big church” since no such thing as children’s church existed back then. Unfortunately, we sometimes uttered the words without thinking about their meanings.
We also plugged away at the “23rd Psalm.” Some parts were scary, such as “yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” Still, we finally “got” all the words, and over the years, the psalm has comforted us in difficult times.
In big church, we doodled on bulletins as the grown-ups recited such things as the Apostles’ Creed. Even without knowing it, our brains were absorbing those words, and much to our surprise, we could regurgitate them. Never mind the fact that we understood none of it. In school, we students were bombarded with things to memorize. Math teachers stood over us like taskmasters and demanded we learn our multiplication tables. We also had to keep straight the functions of division. In high school, teachers demanded that we memorize theorems to apply to geometry. I managed to master multiplication and even division, but algebra and geometry baffled me. I certainly didn’t understand how a letter from the alphabet could, in any way, hold numerical value. I still don’t get it.
English was no less demanding. I remember committing to memory long lists of conjugated irregular verbs, “er” and “est” rules, and pronoun cases. I understood those things much better. In fact, by the time I’d finished 8th grade, the only new things I added to my grammar knowledge covered were gerund, infinitives, and participial phrases. Sadly, too many folks didn’t learn these rules because they say such things as “I seen you yesterday” or “I done my work in class.”
I also caught on to spelling rules, such as “i” before “e” except after “c” or when with they sound like a long “a” in “neighbor” or “sleigh.” What always made things difficult were the exceptions to the rules. They defied logic.
At home, we also learned many things. We recited our addresses and phone numbers before ever attending school. Another must was saying “please and thank you.” Moms reminded us nightly to take baths, use soap, and wash our ears. At the supper table, we grabbed a spoon and made ready to shovel in the food. However, parents corrected us and demanded that we hold utensils properly. Today, my mother would have a hissy fit to see so many incorrectly holding a fork or spoon.
As adults, we reach a tipping point of memorizing and learning. We concentrate on things that help make us successful in our jobs. Luckily, we have those things our parents taught to pass along to our children. At least that makes a small part of life a little easier.
As we get a bit older, learning takes a backseat to forgetting. I struggle to remember where I’ve placed my wallet or keys if they aren’t in the normal places. I fail to recall the reason I walk into the room.
Our minds are amazing things. We can fill them for a lifetime and never need an external hard drive for overflow knowledge. On too many occasions, we fail to learn the things we need for success in areas. On other occasions, we fill our minds with too much useless information, things that won’t make much difference in 50 years. Still, I believe that memorizing some things and learning some other important lessons are worthy pursuits.