By Dave Andrusko
I am cleaning out my bookshelves, both at home and at work. Given that I have so many, it stands to reason I may have some I haven’t read or forgot ever purchasing.
Such is the case with “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything,” which I readily grant at first blush would seem to offer precious little that pro-lifers could use—even assuming the reader knew what the heck I was talking about.
Actually it’s the title to a 2011 book by Joshua Foer. As he explained in a Q&A with Miriam Landis at amazon.com, the title “refers to a memory device I used in the U.S. Memory Championship—specifically it’s a mnemonic that helped me memorize a deck of playing cards.”
Glancing at the book, I found it about how Foer went from covering the U.S. Memory Championship as a journalist to becoming a participant in the contest to actually winning!
It’s relevance for us is, I think, three-fold. First, the techniques—and they are techniques—are hardly new. Cicero used them to memorize his speeches in ancient Greece, Foer says, “and that medieval scholars used to memorize entire books.”
So, at the risk of sounding like an old-fogey, while I embrace new technologies with vigor, there are “tricks of the trade” that have stood the test of time. In our context–saving unborn babies and their mothers– one tried and true action is the enormous importance of individual contact with young women facing crisis pregnancies. They will “remember” that you came in the flesh long after they’ve forgotten something they might read online.
Second, Foer talks extensively about memory and the sense of time. Why do our memories blend together as we get older? Our first response is to attribute it to some organic change in our brain, and, of course, it could be. But what Foer’s pointing out in this interview is that if “yesterday’s lunch is indistinguishable from the one you ate the day before, it’ll end up being forgotten.” There needs to be something even slightly unique.
That is why I try to offer our readers many different ways to think about abortion. The brutality, the inhumanity, the final result can become so “indistinguishable” that while we don’t “forget” that almost than 3,000 unborn babies will die today, it can become less poignant because it’s the “same.”
That doesn’t mean necessarily that you show pictures of aborted babies, although you certainly can. Our sense of urgency can be renewed in less confrontational ways.
For example, I am revived and reinvigorated every time I see my new grandson.
Third, the interview with the author of “Moonwalking with Einstein” talks about something called “The OK Plateau.” In a word it’s where you…plateau…you stop getting better.
Why? Because whatever it is (Foer uses typing as an example) has become automatic—“ You’ve moved it to the back of your mind’s filing cabinet.” So how do you get better? It’s the product of a conscious decision.
“You’ve got to push yourself past where you’re comfortable,” Foer tells Landis. “You have to watch yourself fail and learn from your mistakes. That’s the way to get better at anything. And it’s how I improved my memory.”
I don’t think I have to belabor the lesson for us. No matter what you’re doing, unless you are playing Solitaire (and cheating), you typically fail more often than you succeed. Obviously, if you get overly discouraged, your progress stops—in fact, you’ll likely go backwards.
But you can easily plateau unless (a) you remember you are this for the duration, and (b) you make a conscious decision that every day you will do something to better prepare yourself to defend the defenseless. Doesn’t have to be something major; it might feel like—or even actually be—a small, “insignificant” gesture.
But the cumulative impact will be enormous: your mind, heart, and spirit will be refreshed, knowing that you are doing something on behalf of someone you may never know.
And, God willing, you might even save a life, directly or more likely indirectly, in the process.