In Fahrenheit 451, Montag famously joins a community of outsiders who have each committed one book to memory. The author of that famously banned novel, Ray Bradbury famously said that, given the choice about which book to memorize, “It would be A Christmas Carol. I think that book has influenced my life more than almost any other book, because it’s a book about life, it’s a book about death. It’s a book about triumph.”
Of course, A Christmas Carol also offers a little of everything: tragedy, romance, family stories, forgiveness, and all of the very basic elements in its analysis of human nature. It comes down to the question: When confronted with the a history of our own past and foibles, and given the chance to alter the present in a real and meaningful way, will we do it?
And, then of course, there’s the reality, that most of us have free-and-open access to books. But, that very fact, and the associated realities around our ability to own and collect any book you can possibly imagine or dream of… is also tragic.
Memorize… Memorize… Mem-orize!
Can you remember the last time you memorized a quote (I’m just assuming that you’ve never committed a complete book to memory.) or a poem? From a quick unscientific survey, most of us remember the times we had to memorize blurbs, presentations and other bits of content in school or college. Now, that momentous/memorable occasion might have been last week or decades ago. But, it likely wasn’t yesterday.
Aside: If you really have been memorizing quotes, passages and books since school, college and life happened so long ago, I applaud you! I’d love to hear what you’ve memorized lately. You’re an inspiration to me, and I’d love for all of us to follow your example!
We really should KNOW our books, commit them to memory, even demonstrate our passion for literature! So, why not try? Yes, Yoda’s words come to mind: “Do… or do not do, there is no try.”
- Memorize one line that you will be able to recall a week later.
- Once you’ve mastered that, start on a passage. Memorize it and make sure you remember it a week (and a month) later.
Truthfully, it would be amazing if everyone who reads this article would just do these simple tasks. Undertake to commit to memory those passages, poems and quotes that you’ve always loved. Perhaps you’ll find (or you already know) that those lines have stayed with you. You know them better than you ever imagined. Then, go for the next two challenges:
- Memorize a page or two (or more, if you dare…) Make sure you can still remember them a week (and a month) later.
- Share your challenge with friends and family, and encourage them to do it too!
And, here, it occurs to me that actors do this every day! They memorize lines and scene direction. There are other careers that rely heavily on the memory. Doctors must recall massive amounts of details about symptoms and treatments. Many of us carve out our spots in this world by relying on our ability to know, understand or extrapolate based on information far more than we probably like to think about (in truth).
So, the skill is there. So is the possibility. (Yes, you can do it.) What prevents us from doing it is usually time, inspiration and direction. So, here’s the direction. I hope I’ve offered some direction (just read Fahrenheit 451). Now, all you need is the time. Why not take a few minutes today?