“The older we grow, the more we find things hard to forget and the less we find things easy to remember” (Anonymous).
OF ALL THE AMAZING THINGS ABOUT OUR MEMORIES, ONE OF THE MOST AMAZING IS THEIR SELECTIVITY. Some things we remember, but others — indeed, most others — we forget. Who has ever been able to explain the difference? As Oliver Wendell Holmes observed, “Memory is a net; one finds it full of fish when he takes it from a brook; but a dozen miles of water have run through it without sticking.” But although so many things will inevitably be forgotten, there are some things so important that we dare not forget them. And for that reason, reminders are an essential part of life.
But why is it so important to remember some things? Well, give some thought to this statement by Michel de Montaigne: “Memory is a wonderfully useful tool, and without it judgment does its work with difficulty.” We need to remember some things because without our memory of those things, our wisdom and judgment are impaired. Every day that we live we’re called upon to make decisions based upon our judgment, and some of these decisions are of profound consequence. We will err in making the judgment calls that come our way if our minds can’t remember the things in the past (both the good and the bad) that would impart wisdom to our decision-making.
A journal is a good place to write down things you don’t want to forget: just bits and pieces of anything that you know you need to remember in order to be more wise in the future. Another good place for reminders is a calendar. On my calendar, for example, I record the days when anything personally important happens, so that I can always go back and remember those days. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “The palest ink is better than the best memory.” So whatever needs to be remembered, it’s a good idea to write it down.
The most valuable things to remember, of course, are the things that form the foundation of our character: our principles. You’d think a person would never forget his principles, but the fact is, we often do — if we haven’t made provision to be reminded of them. So do whatever it takes, in the way of reminders, to keep a grip on yourself.
“Remember who you are!” (Lewis Carroll).