What shall I pass to the future?


I wrote this a couple years ago but it’s still very true.

My grandmother is ninety-three, and I am thirty-five, and my mother’s age is one I’ll not reveal, or she may thump me. As I get nearer to my thirty-sixth year I start to wonder what virtues, and habits, and passions will I pass down to future generations? Will I be yet another forgotten worker bee, part of the landscape? Or if I am remembered at all, will there be some bright spark that others might find good to see?

My grandmother still writes in a fine classical Palmer hand, in a style that predates the current D’Nealian version and was popularized in the late 1900s.  Until a week ago, I wrote in a not so fine and brutally pragmatic print hand. It was readable, but never had a pretense of elegance. Is this what I want to have when I am ninety-three? Or sixty, even? Will I rather have eighty or ninety years of practice writing in something that is not fair to look on, or fifty five years of practice in lovely penmanship? I know the choice I am making now.

The same goes for books. Will I tell future generations of the works of Shelley, and Tennyson, and Kipling, and Lafcadio Hearn, and Robert Heinlein, and Larry Niven, and Jerry Pournelle, and Shakespeare, and Samuel Clemens, and Miyamoto Musashi?  Or will the only books I know be Harry Potter, Star Trek or Star Wars novels, and modern fantasy? The website Project Gutenberg is a priceless portal to many immortal works from all around the world. It’s also free, which is rather important as well.

Will I start a Work of Noble Note? Will the others, in my generation, do the same? What will their choices be?

And what of you? I’ve covered two things I’d like to take to the future. What things from the past would you like to pass forward? What’s worthwhile to you? I’d love to hear it.

How to Train your Memory

I have been a chronic sufferer of CRS. That’s short for “Can’t Remember Shit,” of course! Nothing so serious as early onset Alzheimer’s, or anything like that, just a tricky and fickle brain that doesn’t like to hold information.

I’m tired of that. But there is hope. The human brain is like a muscle (no calling me a musclehead) and you can train it. Research has shown that new neural connections are created throughout life, and we can even grow new neurons, something that was once thought impossible after childhood. With this information in mind, I decided to try my hand at improving my brain. So I set myself the task of memorizing various immortal poems that will help build my character. My method was simple. Read the poem several times, write it down a few times, and keep a piece of paper in your pocket and look at it at odd times all day. Rhyming poems are easier to remember, of course.

I found that I would remember more when I woke up then when I went to sleep, because my brain had been busy sorting information and filing all night. Nice to know the sleep scientists are on to something.

So far I memorized Ozymandias by Shelley in three days, while working and doing all my normal things. That bit of paper in my pocket was probably the most helpful thing I could have done, that and saying as much as I could of it, then checking the paper for corrections.

Next is Ulysses by Tennyson. It’s a much longer work but I can already tell I’m having an easier time with it because of the work I did on Ozymandias. If you want to try it too, start with something you really like. It could be a poem, a set of song lyrics, a scrap of a story or article, anything like that. Try to memorize it. It will take at least a few days to do properly.

Some tips for memorizing things:

You will remember the words better if you hand write them at least once, and preferably several times.  For maximum effect, handwrite it rather than printing.

Start small to build up your confidence.  Maybe even just one line.

Read it out loud, read it silently, glance at the piece throughout the day and especially before sleep.

Get plenty of rest. Sleep helps you remember things. You will often find yourself better able to remember after you’ve slept.

Keep at it. It will be hard at first but as you go on, it will get easier!

“And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.”

The Cat Pumpkin

When I was a teenager, my mom would often take me to see my grandmother. I didn’t really mind visiting. It was a little boring but not so bad really, and nice to get out of the house. She lived in a retirement community, basically senior living apartments.

One time they had a halloween party. There was pumpkin carving and anyone who knows me knows I’m all over pumpkin carving. That time was no exception. My favorite pumpkin, and one my mom still remembers too, was the cat pumpkin. He had ears and whiskers and everything. Everybody loved that cat pumpkin!

If you want to make your own cat pumpkin, make sure the eyes are fairly large when you cut them out and keep the pieces whole. Then trim those pieces down to nice triangular ear shapes. Secure them with bits of toothpick to the top of the pumpkin. Carve a small triangular nose and use three more toothpicks on either side for whiskers. You may need to whittle them a bit so they stick in more easily.

Everybody loved that pumpkin and I loved the memory!