My Mind is A Bookstore

Have you ever read Cicero’s Rhetorica ad Herennium? Probably not, it is over 2000 years old and there are many modern renditions of the great orator’s words.

The thing that stuck with me in this book is a memory system based on loci, the plural of locus, Latin for place. The idea is that the mind is made to remember spaces. Imagine that data is a raw file, but in order for it to fit on your hard drive (or brain) you have to convert it into a compatible file. Raw data is incompatible with the way normal minds worked. By converting it to a different medium (or file type) it will slip in easily. These mediums can be songs, rhymes, or spaces, but it is best to combine them.

For loci, you have to chose a place you now well or imagine vividly. You place all your memories there in different rooms, streets, or generic sections.

My first instinct was a fortified Medieval keep complete with an outer moat, two story ramparts, barracks, inner moat, fortified inner keep, two drawbridges, and barracks. I think a psychiatrist would have a field day.

Next, I tried the things I know well. Interestingly enough, I couldn’t sketch my house, school, or church even though I literally lived at all three of these places. Finally I just started sketching.

I ended up with a detailed blueprint for Borders, a bookstore that went out of business over a year ago. Detailed, as in, aisle by aisle, bookshelf by bookshelf, subject and genres. The best part is that it was all alphabetized.

My mind is a bookstore, an obsessively alphabetized and cataloged bookstore.

The funny thing is that I have a very good memory. If I hear something, I can repeat it almost word perfect. This was just practice for storing mass amounts of data and I discovered I already had a filing system.

-W

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