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JIM ‘PAPPY’ MOORE: Memory – Use It or Lose It

By Jim “Pappy” Moore

I have a constant craving. It is to be able to remember things. I have long had a natural proclivity to remember things others do not always remember. It has given me an edge. In law school it meant being able to remember the names and dates of the one hundred most important cases studied in each law school class. Remembering the case names and dates was my way of tagging the thought or holding of each important case.

During classes I would take notes on each lecture. Then at night I would review those notes and outline what they said, presenting me with a much clearer picture of the material studied. Every day. Every night.

When I concluded a course of one semester, I already had a complete outline of the entire course, ready for study. I then outlined the course over and over, reducing it each time until at last it became a word outline with 100 or so key cases, notated only by their style, such as International Shoe Company v. Washington (1945). The tests would present a fact situation and from that circumstance we were asked to analyze the case, identify the key issues, and determine how the court should rule, citing controlling law when possible.

In my subsequent practice of law, memory played a key role in cross-examining witnesses, in arguing cases to judges and juries, and in convincing jurors that your side had prevailed on all key issues.

Retaining a good memory requires effort and practice. Try knowing the prices of each item you place in your basket as you shop for groceries. It may take some effort to remember the cherries cost $5.98 a pound and you got about a pound, or that the ground meat was $4.99 a pound and you got two pounds for $9.98. The more you do it, the sharper your memory becomes. Then you can try adding the rounded off numbers in your head so that you know for a certainty your basket contains $64-$66 dollars of items. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

When there is an event you attend, try remembering the number of people present and their names. The more you do it, the easier it becomes. Writing the names down imprints a different part of your brain than hearing or thinking a name. Seeing the written name further embeds it into your memory.

As we age, our mind becomes like a computer with so much data it is difficult to recall and retrieve many items we would have found much easier to remember in prior years. Like when you suddenly hear a song on the radio called Constant Craving. I know when I hear it the singer is Canadian, a female, and was most popular several decades ago. But what is her name? Can I retrieve it from my memory or do I simply go looking for it online? That would be the easy way, but I make my mind work. I recall her initials are KL, with both parts short. I recall it may sound like a man’s name. I can picture her singing the song. After 10 minutes of thinking about it as I drive, suddenly it comes to me:  K.D. Lang.

Your memory is like a muscle. It atrophies if you do not use it. If you settle for “remembering” the easy way – by looking it up – you do it no favor. Your memory is yours to save or lose. Like a knife that must be sharpened to be useful, your mind depends on you to exercise it and make demands of it.

A cup of coffee in the morning helps, too. Knock the rust off and get busy remembering the things you already know but might have forgotten.

Copyright 2023, Jim “Pappy” Moore. All rights reserved.


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