One of the most striking features of ancient literary works, such as the Iliad and Odyssey, is their sheer size; even more incredible is the fact that these works where not printed and distributed, but were rather brought around the world by a group of willing poets who would then recite them in front of crowds.
Homer himself was believed to have been a pseudonym for a group of poets.
The fact that there was a group crazy enough to go around talking about wars and horses was in itself remarkable, but not far from what we might see in a subway, after 11.00 PM.
What’s really outstanding is the fact that these huge works were not being red, but recited by memory; thousands of pages filled with intricate prophecies, characters and convoluted developments relied only on human memory to be shared and passed on.
Pretty much, they were the equivalent of nowadays Game of Thrones fans; there was one little difference, tough: instead of obsession, the poets relied on sophisticated techniques.
Those techniques are very much alive today and can easily help us memorize infinite amounts of data.
As a matter of fact, there are companies whose main business consists of teaching these techniques and providing the needed mental tools to students and professionals; for a hefty price, that is.
Personally, I think this kind of precious information should be spread freely as much as possible; also, I’m too lazy to start an actual business.
The easiest technique you can learn is one that just follows your brain natural process: visualization.
In order to retain information, we need them to be relevant and possibly emotional; that is the reason, for example, why we never remember what color the watch on hour kitchen is, even if we may have seen that a thousand times.
Whether you’re studying chemistry or business, try converting the dry words in vivid images in your head, linking them together in one long string. It is absolutely important that the images are the first ones that come to mind reading a certain word or concept, because those will be the most sincere and emotional, thus also being the ones you will remember better.
While visualization is an extremely powerful tool, it is almost impossible to use it with concept that have not emotional dimension; only weird people get emotional about electrons or the circumference of Saturn, and you’re not weird, are you?
Where visualization finds its limits, phonetic conversion comes in to play; gently provided by mathematician Stanislaus Mink von Wennsshein and later divulgated by Leibniz, it provides an alphabetic table through which numbers and word can be converted in easy concepts you can visualize and memorize.
In other words, it translates dry concepts in food for your brain, allowing you to memorize long string of numbers of very difficult words. The table is different for every language, being adapted by the frequency a certain letter appears; in Italian, for example, the letters T and D are way more frequent than S or Z.
You have converted, translated, visualized; now what? How can you ensure your efforts won’t just produce random images? Marcus Tullius Cicero himself might have an answer for you.
The man who has become a synonym for eloquence relied on this elegant technique to organize his thoughts and drive his passionate speeches, has did many before and after him.
This technique requires you to organize all the previously visualized concept along a route with which you are very familiar; if, for example, you wanted to memorize and entire page of a manual, you could split it in main concepts, translate them in images and then allocate them along the route you usually travel to go back home, as well as your home’s rooms or any other familiar place.
This way of memorizing and retaining information is common in Savants, such as the one depicted in Rain Man and inspired by Kim Peek, a man who remembered every single word he ever red.
In fact, these techniques only begin to scratch the surface of what is possible with the right tools, but it should be enough for you to improve your studying or play weird tricks at the next party; if that’s not enough, part two will show you how you can memorize all the cards in a Black Jack game and never forget the name of the hot girl/guy you just met.
But you probably won’t need any help for that, will you?