I like writing on a wide range of subjects, it is such a challenge to draw upon past and present knowledge while doing the occasional research that adds to my storehouse. I joke to my wife that my mind is a index sequential relational database and then proceed to prove it when asked about something and it takes me a few minutes to retrieve the information. It’s just one of those things that happens all the time. I remember a film or a song and then I can visualize the answer in the person or the scene I am trying to recall and yet it takes a while for the works to finally make it to my conscious mind and get spit out. I would believe that most of us have that relational database organization for our memories, I mean it makes sense. Memory is either rote and associative. Many of us were made to learn out maths tables for addition and multiplication. Subtraction and division didn’t need tables since one works backwards. But associative memory is a different animal, if you like. Relational databases rely on keys. For instance, I could store information about an individual by telephone number, by name, by address, street address, and a few other pieces of data. By using one of those pieces of data, called a tuple, I can access all of the information on record. Like the War of 1812, Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson, John Lafete, British defeat, 1814, and so forth. One of the things that happens when we learn with a diverse amount of information available is that we assemble a richer associative record.
Of course one of the key components is writing, which reinforces the learning process. It’s that old hand eye coordination thing that seldom is practiced in today’s public schools where the emphasis is on memorization of answers to be spat out on demand, often using multiple choice. Yet how long is such information retained in memory. One can memorize answers for a test and promptly forget such information quickly after such a test. On the other hand, learning is a different process. One must pay attention to what is to be learned. Then one memorizes the information. After which one tries to use or manipulate such information so as to place it in different contexts. That is like telling a child to take a paragraph and rewrite in his own words. Hell, simply inverting the word order does wonders for learning. It is that thought process that leads to learning. When I was in that fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grade class that required that I write some report, I naturally took to looking up some encyclopedia reference and then copy that reference by changing word order. Yeah, I’m sure the teacher could tell that I was plagiarizing, I mean it was obvious. But come the test and I could score an A fairly easy. If I were a teacher I would teach this method to many students just to get them to learn without knowing that is what they were doing. Sure, the writing gets a little stogy for an eight grader but you know, it does teach you something about writing. I mean, if I were an English teacher in the public high school system I would have my students practice rewriting paragraphs in different ways. Imagine, one could take a sentence that was independent clause and dependent clause and have it reversed in order. Try writing a passive sentence as active and vice versa. Man, you’ve got to play with language and with its structure if you are going to learn to be its master.
Now this method of rewriting sentences backward doesn’t work well with music as exhibited by playing the Beatles White Album backwards tends to result in devil worship. Mathematical equations read the same, frontwards or backwards as long as there is an equal sign in the middle. And reading history backwards is not necessarily the antidote to repeating history again, and again, and again….broken record. These days I have a strong tendency to associate learning with writing. Maybe because it has become very simple for me, the learning and the writing. I like the idea of critical mass theory to learning. Once you have memorized enough facts and other information then learning can begin. In a way it is like learning another language. You struggle to learn the words and the verb tenses and all the syntax rules but it isn’t until that day when everything comes together. You start to have an understanding of what is being said without playing translator. One goes from hearing a phrase or two and getting some sense of what someone is speaking about to understanding quite a bit more of what they are saying without that delay process. The same thing happens with mathematics. It starts to make sense to you, you see what the operations are trying to tell you.
The same things happens in history. When you read a number of sources and then start to think and reflect a patterns starts to emerge and one starts to make sense of the events and the time and the people. I really loved reading about Bismarck, the German Chancellor and not the capital of North Dakota ( I had to look that one up since I get the two Dakota capitals confused. Pierre is the capital of South Dakota. Maybe the key here is to remember that Bismarck was the superior to the French Pierre. That might work, say it three times and its yours. So it goes, you look for patterns that work. I love to read many of the older fiction writers because I learn so much from them, but that is another post. No, as one gets older and keeps learning and thinking and reading and writing the more the world becomes your oyster. That is the message and the process is really is simply irresistible. Like being addicted to love, we are Robert Palmer in so many ways.