By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This week’s first look back at what appeared in NRL News Today a year ago is, for me, a delight, because it reminds us of the critical importance of memory.
When we recently moved our offices, it quickly became clear my local library was a good resting place for some of the hundreds of books on my office shelves. Given that I have so many books, it stood to reason that as I perused my collection, I would find some I hadn’t read or forgot ever purchasing.
Such is the case with “Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.” I readily grant at first blush this 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 turns out to be (to my utter surprise) the title to a 2011 book by Joshua Foer. As he explained in a Q& A with Miriam Landis at www.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!
Its relevance for us? I believe it is 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 many years after they’ve forgotten something they might read online.
Second item that is relevant to us. Foer talks extensively about memory and the sense of time. Why do our memories blend together as we get older? [Here I raised my hand!]
Our first response is to attribute it to some organic change in our brain, and, of course, it could be. But what Foer is pointing out in this interview with Miriam Landis 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. We can never all the brutality, the inhumanity, the final result to become “indistinguishable. While we don’t ever “forget” that on a Monday-through-Saturday killing schedule, almost 2,900 unborn babies will die today, it can become less poignant because those deaths are the “same.”
Our sense of urgency can and must be renewed. Think of it this way.
“A great man is he who has not lost the heart of a child,” said Mencius, one of the most famous Confucian philosophers. How about this update of the powerful 4th century B.C. insight? “The great man [or woman] is he who never loses his heart for unborn children.”
The third relevance for pro-lifers of the author of “Moonwalking with Einstein” as found in his interview with Landis is something called “The OK Plateau.” In a word it’s where you…plateau…you stop getting better.
Why? Because whatever it is has become automatic —Foer uses typing as an example, “ 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), often you fail more often than you succeed. Obviously, if you get overly discouraged, your progress stops [you plateau]—but in fact, you’ll likely go backwards.
But you and I can easily plateau unless (a) we remember we are in this for the duration; and (b) we make a conscious decision that every day you and I will do something to better prepare ourselves to defend the defenseless.
Doesn’t have to be something major. In almost all cases, 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.