We are the sum of our abilities, challenges and memories. Our definition of Self is dependent upon that which we can remember of our Past, and how we interpret the Meaning of that Past for the Future. As most Human Beings will have good and bad experiences, those which we form strong associations with will control our expectations, motivation, ability to act, concentration during action, and likely success.
Many of us have a little electronic box in our pocket which remembers all our phone numbers, email addresses, calendar schedule, and contains many times the power and speed of the computers which put a Man on the Moon in the 1970s. Like the introduction of 1st cuneiform bricks, papyrus, then sheepskin scrolls, then paper, then moveable type, then cheap paper to take advantage of printing, then all the electronic marvels of the 1900s, each advance in technology has changed the requirements needed to communicate beyond the personal present. Over time, our brain is changing in response to use and disuse, but physiology changes slower than culture, and that lag allows us time to preserve the best of the Past while embracing the best of the Future, to build the best of all possible worlds here and now.
As the brain developed, motion was more important than detail (tiger?). Location was more important than quantity (is this the path to food or tiger... and do I have more than one rock?). Facial recognition could be limited to recognizing the 10 people you knew from the 20 people you might meet in your short life. Counting was One, Two, Many, perhaps up to 10 using the convenience of fingers and toes. The past was what was remembered, the future unpredictable and that created anxiety. By abstracting meaning from Past events, Humans created useful expectations about the future if certain paths were followed and others avoided (did you say tiger?).
So, why develop your memory, if you have a cell phone, with Google and Wikipedia and photos of your kids?
Wisdom is made up of Processor Power (intelligence), applied to information (usually in Memory) by Will (the Operator) for a purpose (Goal). Memory is a large part of Wisdom, so to be the best we can be, Ourselves Made Perfect, one of the preliminary goals of Spirit, we improve our memories. Only then are we able to believe ourselves worthy to approach and merge with our Holy Guardian Angel, our little piece of God while on Earth.
Our minds have a limited desktop (our attention), with a smallish shelf of books above, and a vast library in the next room. Most people can put @ 7 chunks on their desktop at a time. As the 8th chuck of information is brought on to your desk, something else gets covered up, and transferred on to the Recent Memory shelf above. If not returned to the desk in a day or so, your dutiful Librarian takes it into the "stacks" of the Library in the next room. The longer ago that happened, the less of a trace the memory will leave on your current desk top.
Fortunately, the size of these "chunks" can be increased by association, even if the total number is relatively inflexible.
And how big "chunks" are depends on how closely individual facts or ideas are associated to others, for we remember very little by itself, but everything in the context in which we experienced it. Therefore, reading a speech, then writing it down, then saying it while moving, then imagining it as a visual story, will all create additional "hooks" or associations by which that fact or idea can be recalled. So, using the insights of Neurolinguistic programing, we discover which are our preferred modes of learning and remembering, and structure our memory challenges accordingly. We can remember more as we create more and more unusual associations, so the more vivid and creative and personal our technique, the stronger the memory bond is forged.
Forgetting happen on a schedule, we lose 65 - 75% of what we study overnight, but can relearn it in half the time, with only 40% forgetting, and the process can be repeated on schedule to produce long term memory results. (see Hermann Ebbinghaus, Dr. Forgetting's studies).
Dr. William Glasser reports average Learning rates of 10% of what we Read, 20% of what we Hear, 30% of what we See, 50% of what we See and Hear, 70% of what we discuss, 80% of what we Experience, and 95% of what we teach to others.
"“declarative memory” consists of “semantic” memory for general facts and “episodic memory” for specific experiences... In general, declarative memory is often conscious, involved in “knowing,” reminiscing and planning, and it is what we commonly mean by “memory” and its loss as “amnesia.” The different nondeclarative memory systems tend to be unconscious, involved in “doing” and closer to the perceptual, motor and emotional systems of the brain.... “Classical” conditioning is another type of nondeclarative memory, of which Ivan Pavlov’s experiment is the best-known example. Putting meat in a dog’s mouth produces salivation; after the meat and the sound of a bell are paired, the bell alone will produce salivation. Classical conditioning is intact in amnesics; it depends on the cerebellum, a large structure in the rear of the brain. Emotional memory is a related type of nondeclarative memory. It requires parts of the amygdala, a subcortical structure adjacent to the hippocampus.... Meditation is a method for training the mind to have a new relationship with time, knowing only the present… consolidation involves “transferring” memories from the hippocampus to other regions of the cerebral cortex, where they are stored as long-term memories...." * http://www.thenation.com/article/176664/long-and-short-memory?page=0,1 ;
Quotes: "I've... seen things you people wouldn't believe... [laughs] Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those... moments... will be lost in time, like tears... in... rain. Time... to die..."* Rutger Hauer, actor, as Roy Batty, android, in Blade Runner by director Ridley Scott, based loosely on a story by Philip K. Dick; "Memory is the treasury and guardian of all things" - Cicero;
Practitioners: Homer, whose poems teach us it is easier to remember things in rhyme than in prose; Cicero, and his story of the poet Simonides' method of loci Memory Palace technique; Quinctilian, who made it one of the foundations of Rhetoric; Marsilio Ficino; Giovanni Pico della Mirandola; Giulio Camillo; Giordano Bruno; Robert Fludd; William W. Atkinson of the New Thought Movement; Pierre Hérigone of the "Master Memory" system of Mnemonics ; Johann Winkelmann who improved it; Gregor von Feinaigle who improved it again; Joshua Foer, who is presenting these techniques to modern audiences in many formats; Hermann Ebbinghaus, AKA Dr. Forgetting; Frances Yates, modern scholar of the Ancients; William Schaw and all of the Freemasons who follow in memorizing the rituals of initiation and Knowledge Lectures; Salvidor Dali, who believed Memory was always false, always art we present to ourselves; Harry Lorayne, a 50s stage magician and memory showman; Prof. Peter M. Vishton, whose scientific lectures are well worth while; Alexei Kondratiev, recently passed Celtic and language scholar with a phenomenal memory, Rest in Peace, Old Friend; Dr. William Beecher Scoville, neurosurgeon; Dr. Wilder Penfield, neurosurgeon; Brenda Milner; Karl Lashley; Suzanne Corkin; H. M. aka Henry Gustav Molaison, patient; Philip J. Hilts; Larry Squire ; Stewart Zola; Mortimer Mishkin; Faraneh Vargha-Khadem of University College, London; John O’Keefe, University College, London; Matt Wilson of MIT;
Akashic Memory / Astral Travel / Seership: Jean Overton Fuller; Elisabeth Haich; Rupert Sheldrake's morphic field experiments; Alice Bailey; Edgar Cayce; Kardec; William S. Sadler; Helen Schucman; Andrew Jackson Davis; William Eglington, Spiritualist;
including Crystal Gazing: P. B. Randolph; Frederick Hockley; Kenneth R. H. Mackenzie; Emma Louisa Leigh, his seeress or medium (1838 -1858, seer for only 7 years before her premature death); Emma Hardinge Britten; Claude Alexander Conlin; Dr. John Dee; Eliphas Levi; Rev William Alexander Ayton; H. P. Blavatsky;
Resources: http://ideas.time.com/2013/09/18/dilberts-scott-adams-choose-your-immortality/ on memory without a human body; http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/30/memory-hacks_n_3949644.html; http://www.thenation.com/article/176664/long-and-short-memory ; Permanent Present Tense, by Suzanne Corkin ; http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8506.html ;