memory, mortality, and epic parties

Those are my three biggest take-aways from Moonwalking with Einstein, which I could only put down long enough to write out various quotes in my journal.

If memory is our means of preserving that which we consider most valuable, it is also painfully linked to our own transience. When we die, our memories die with us. In a sense, the elaborate system of externalized memory we’ve created is a way of fending off mortality. (p. 19)

This reminds me of an article I read for a discussion group (I searched for, but can’t seem to find it) which discusses both the permanence and elusiveness of digital content – permanent because there is no reason to delete anything and elusive because, well, when nothing is deleted, there is Too Much To Sort Through.

By the time you get to the end of this sentence, your brain will have physically changed. (p. 33)

That is just so amazing. Mind-blowing, even!

This next section is one of many from conversations with Ed, who the author describes as a yogi and manager during his memory training adventure. Ed is constantly coming up with new theories for life, the universe, and everything.

“I’m working on expanding subjective time so that it feels like I live longer…The idea is to avoid that feeling you have when you get to the end of the year and feel like, Where the hell did that go?”(p. 75)

I do hate that feeling!

The ancient and medieval way of reading was totally different from how we read today. One didn’t just memorize texts; one ruminated on them – chewed them up and regurgitated them like cud – and in the process, became intimate with them in a way that made them ones own. (p. 110)

Two thoughts. First, my friend Amy reads books like this – she will discuss and debate a story she loves for hours, and in the process bring depth to the reading experience. I think my literary renaissance came about because of discussions with her, though I haven’t learned to process books at the same level she does. Second, there are some devotional texts that I read repetitively, in hopes that they will become intimate in this way.

When you want to get good at something, how you spend your time practicing is far more important than the amount of time you spend. (p. 171)

Reminds me of the buckshot vs. rifle approach which I linked a few weeks ago.

To improve, we must watch ourselves fail, and learn from our mistakes.

Y’all, I will have so much to say on this topic over the next few days. I’ve been working through a book about failure, and it is epic.

Speaking of epic, we need to return to Ed, and his philosophy of parties.

     “I’m trying to find a framework for manipulating conversation, space, movement, mood, and expectation so that I can see how they influence one another,” he told me. “In order to track all these parameters, I treat people not as volitional entities but as automata – particles really – which bounce around the party. And as host of the party, I take seriously my responsibility of bouncing them around in the best possible manner.”

Glittery textiles hung from the rafters to the floor, dividing the barn into a collection of small rooms. The only way in or out was through a newtork of tunnels, which could be navigated only by slithering on one’s belly. The space under the grand piano was turned into a fort, and a circle was formed around the fireplace out of a collection of raggedy couches that had been stacked on top of tables.

“The people who actually get through the tunnel networks have been through an adventure. They have had to struggle a tiny bit, and therefore upon arrival, they feel a sense of gratitude, relief, and accomplishment, and are committed to the project of having a good experience, with the most possible vigor and imagination.”

There is more. A whole chapter of the book is devoted to this party, and Ed’s philosophical motivations behind every nuance of the evening.

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