Monday, August 22, 2011

Monday Morning Preacher: Relying on memory

For the first time in simply aaaaages (well, actually since the 4th of July weekend), I didn't have to preach on Sunday, and it felt mighty good. I lounged around at home, reading a thriller, watching the A's game, paying bills, putzing around in the garden...just what the doctor ordered. If I were taking a doctor's advice, that is.

At any rate, I still thought about preaching when I saw this snippet on Andrew Sullivan's blog about how we remember.

Briefly put, the human brain is manifestly better at remembering images and spaces than it is at recalling numbers and letters. Cicero, then, counsels, “The best way to memorize a speech” is to “make one image for each major topic” and “place each of those images at a locus.” You might not easily remember every topic you need to cover in a speech, but you will, in all likelihood, effortlessly recall the layout of your childhood house. The task, then, is simply to build the speech into that house.

I'm going to have to remember that for my next sermon. I do pretty well from notes, but this might be very useful for getting away from notes entirely.

What techniques do you find useful for remembering what you want to say?


it's margaret said...

Hey --that's good.

When I preach extemporaneously, I use what I call my 'keys.' --that would be the three words or the idea that lead from one place to the conclusion. I can preach a sermon with fewer than eight words written on a page before me --which is kinda like a mental map --but to make it images, or places in a home --the entry hall, the LR and kitchen --the stairs.... whooohooo --a new way to think through a sermon. Thanks!!!

Anonymous said...

Books you might love if you like this idea:

"Matteo Ricci's Memory Palace" by Jonathan Spence - the story of the 16th-century Jesuit priest who brought Cicero's techniques to a Chinese governor and his three sons to help them with their all-important imperial exams

"The Art of Memory" by Frances Yates - the classic scholarly account of how this tradition of memory retention worked for the Greeks, the Romans, and the great figures of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution

(also a gothic thriller that I read a few years ago in which the heroines and their friends and enemies actually walked around in each others' memory palaces - but ironically, alas, I can't remember a thing about the author or the title of that one!)

Anonymous said...

On your actual question, what mnemonic devices do I use -

1) I think about my major points in order, associate each one with one of the fingers of my left hand, and tick them off mentally with my right hand as I go along


2) I write the sermon in a style that has a speaking rhythm, and then I read it over and over silently and aloud until it sinks into my flesh, blood, body, and bone memory

The first technique is easier for sermons that sound like colloquial conversations and the second technique is easier for sermons whose prose shares some of the resonance of poetry