Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some Bullet Points on Memory and Learning

Although I am not yet off of blogging (as you can see) and I am not yet off of Facebook (as most of you can see), I have begun to change the way I access information. Right now I'm observing how changing the way I access information affects how I store information. It seems like I'm going to keep more of it in my brain. Here are a few observations clustered around that idea.

1. Telephone Numbers. I have to dial them. They are written down, and then I read them off the page and I dial them. If I were to be lost, without my address book, there are now several people whose numbers I could dial from memory...if I could only find a phone.

2. Directions. My map doesn't tell me what to do. The only way to choose between Mass Ave and Storrow Drive is to know the difference. As a result, I am more quickly developing a map of the city in my mind. I am my own MapQuest.

3. Books. Technically I can still search collections of books, by walking up to a human being and asking for help. But this is not the path of least resistance. Instead, weaning myself off of AbeBooks and Amazon, I am starting to browse. This takes a long time. The side effect of reading rows and rows of titles and authors is that you learn titles and authors. The advantage here feels counterintuitive, since my search engines organize the information so neatly according to my wishes that they could almost be writing me a personalized textbook. But, as countless college students have learned, textbooks don't do you any good unopened on the floor next to your bed. Learning only happens if I study.

4. Addresses. How many times have I asked you for your address? For those of you who know me -- my siblings in particular -- it's probably a lot of times. There's a change in energetic principle, here, from the back-end impulse in which I obtain the information from the source every single time I need it, to a front-end impulse in which I obtain the information from the source only once and write it down. I think of my stepmother and her address book, which was overflowing with information about her peers and her contacts and her loved ones. She never went anywhere without it.

5. Cooking. I am beginning to get all my cooking information from the same cookbook. It's a standard, Better Homes and Gardens. And to make this point I have to confess that I am historically very uncomfortable with cooking.

I can get the cooking done in a way that I couldn't have done five years ago, and I'm grateful for that, but it has remained a psychological strain. All the Epicurious recipes that I have found and then forgotten -- with that back-end energetic principle, like the addresses -- have not made a dent in my insecurity. I still don't know how to cook. I don't know those recipes. I don't remember how I did that crazy pineapple-duck for Christmas that one year. I don't even remember how I did the potatoes.

The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook is doing something different for me. It's always there. It's always the same. I can put my hands on it, and open it in the same spot on my kitchen counter. And as a result, I recognize that I am doing the same cooking activities over and over. The book has little insets, that function for me like a security blanket. That's how you pre-cook the meat, and how you defrost it, and how you chop the vegetables. And as I learn these stable guideposts, I'm starting to make a map in my head, not unlike my mental map of Boston.

I'm pretty comfortable with driving directions, to the extent that Nick and I do a little negotiation before we drive together: Is the hard part of this trip going to be the parking, in which case Nick should get into the driver's seat, or is the hard part of this trip going to be the navigating, in which case Esther should drive. I hadn't imagined that I could navigate cooking like that. I never thought I could relax in my kitchen, knowing that if I miss the turn to Leverett Circle I can just get off at Copley Square.

This hasn't happened yet. Please, don't invite yourself for dinner without giving me at least 24 hours to prepare. But I can see now, with no distractions and no excuses and no searchable Epicurious, I could actually learn how to cook.

No comments: