I hope you have been as blessed as I have been by these first four weeks of school, the incredibly beautiful weather, and the joy of pursuing the Lord together at Classical Christian Academy. For numerous reasons, I think we could all tell this was going to be a year to remember, and it’s off to a great start. Let us continue to thank the Lord Christ for His rich and kind mercies to us.
Something I have become more passionate about in the past few years is the discipline of memory. My life has been richly blessed with each new great piece of scripture or poetry I have internalized to the point of knowing them by heart. While memorization comes more easily to some than to others, I believe we can honor God and be blessed tremendously when we develop the faculty of memory, no matter how naturally gifted or experienced we may be. We emphasize memorization in the Grammar stage in part because younger children generally find the process more second-nature, but it remains an important discipline at all ages. Aristotle and other ancient writers and practitioners of Rhetoric valued memory as one of the five key canons (or elemental divisions) of the art, and prior to the age of Google and smartphones (which seem to steal more and more of the “smart” from us users), great education always included committing to memory lengthy poems and passages from great works. Most importantly, memorization matters to the Lord. The word “remember” shows up more than 230 times in the Bible, and some form of “forget” (usually as in “do not forget” or “you have forgotten”) gets used more than another 100 times. Read through the Scriptures, and you will find God continually exhorting His people to remember His commandments, remember His works, remember His faithfulness, remember the poor and needy, and more. In fact, God makes it clear that forgetfulness, when it comes to His Word and commands, is a sin. The common excuse we cling to, “I forgot,” won’t cut it with the Father. We are called to remember.
So, how do we develop our minds to remember more (and better) things? Today, far more fits in the palm of our hands than any single, or even thousands of libraries ever built, but our faculty of memory grows more and more atrophied. Truly educated people once could be considered to have carried the most valuable pieces of acquired knowledge with them everywhere they went. A favorite legend of C.S. Lewis claims that one could enter his office, pull a book off the shelf at random, read a single line, and that he could then recite the page verbatim from memory. Now, while that kind of mind is rare in any age, it didn’t come without dedicated development, diligent study, and devoted attention. Anyone who learns to pay attention and work hard can develop better memory, but we live in an age in which the battle is more than just a little uphill. We are so trained in passive entertainment, easy access to information, and short attention spans that we are in danger of finding ourselves “educated” but empty. Memory matters, and we mean to cultivate it at CCA, so when you see memory assignments come home, know that it’s at the very heart of our mission and all we hope to accomplish. We have a lot of work to do.
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You,” declares the psalmist in Psalm 119:11. “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it,” reads Proverbs 22:6.
For those of us beyond the Grammar stage, the time for easy, natural memorization may have passed, but the opportunity to invest in and develop the discipline of memory remains. A wealth of techniques, tools, and strategies for improving memory exists for older students and adults, and I look forward to sharing more in the future. But the first step is just picking something worthwhile to dwell upon and commit to knowing it by heart from memory. Find a poem you love, a favorite piece of dialog from a book, or an important Bible verse or chapter, and get to work! Copy it out in a notebook, break it down line-by-line, pick portions to repeat somewhere in your daily routine, and really give it your best attention. See if you can memorize right alongside your children (who will probably get it much faster than you). When the smartphone era comes to an end, and when we find ourselves alone with ourselves, how good it will be to draw from a well-stocked storehouse of memory! Keep chasing the worthy pursuit of lifelong learning, and get those memory cylinders firing. And let me know what you’re working on and how I can help. It’s inspiring to be chasing things together!