The part of the mind that once held poems is now used for storing passwords.
The part of the mind that once remembered songs is now used for storing pin numbers…
Knowing things by heart is definitely old school. As noted above by cartoonist and writer Michael Leunig.
We have so many devices now for storing memory that we have lost the the practice of holding beautiful words in our distracted minds. I think that knowing poetry and sayings by heart is a balm for the soul. It is a practice that can remind me of other ways of being when I get too caught up in the urgency of tasks.
There is an unexpected gift that George Steiner names in his book Real Presences. Steiner says there is ‘a shaping reciprocity between ourselves and that which the heart knows.’ A ‘shaping reciprocity’ I love that term. He also says,
‘What is committed to memory and susceptible of recall constitutes a ballast of the self, the detergent tide of social conformity cannot tear it from us.’
These words are so marvellous I love having them by heart too. They are trickier than some but so rewarding. When I say a ‘ballast of the self’ I almost feel the heft.
You can read more about learning by heart in the story of Earth Hour, available in Spinifex Blessing