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Understanding Memory

By Paul Hegarty

It needs very little argument to convince the average thinking person of the great magnitude of memory, although even then very few begin to realize just how important is the function of the mind that has to do with the retention of mental impressions. The first thought of the average person when he is asked to consider the importance of memory, is its use in the affairs of every-day life, along developed and cultivated lines, as contrasted with the lesser degrees of its development. In short, one generally thinks of memory in its phase of "a good memory'' as contrasted with the opposite phase of " a poor memory.'' But there is a much broader and fuller meaning of the term than that of even this important phase.

It is true that the success of the individual in his every-day business, profession, trade or other occupation depends very materially upon the possession of a good memory. His value in any walk in life depends to a great extent upon the degree of memory he may have developed. His memory of faces, names, facts, events, circumstances and other things concerning his every-day work is the measure of his ability to accomplish his task. And in the social intercourse of men and women, the possession of a retentive memory, well stocked with available facts, renders its possessor a desirable member of society. And in the higher activities of thought, the memory comes as an invaluable aid to the individual in marshalling the bits and sections of knowledge he may have acquired, and passing them in review before his cognitive faculties "thus does the soul review its mental possessions.

As Alexander Smith has said: "A man's real possession is his memory; in nothing else is he rich; in nothing else is he poor." Richter has said: "Memory is the only paradise from which we cannot be driven away. Grant but memory to us, and we can lose nothing by death." Lactantius says: "Memory tempers prosperity, mitigates adversity, controls youth, and delights old age."

But even the above phases of memory represent but a small segment of its complete circle. Memory is more than "a good memory" it is the means whereby we perform the largest share of our mental work.



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