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Just a Clever Trick

Walking down the ancient stone steps of the Poseidon Garden yesterday, I thought of dreams and how they are a descent into the scary darkness of our subconcious. Each step downward takes us closer to things we need or ought to know, especially those we have forgotten.

Memory is mysterious. Some important experiences are easily recalled, but others remain hidden for decades. And for no reason they suddenly leap up to startle us.

When I was nine or ten I discovered in a magazine a great device of memorization. The article claimed you can quickly and easily remember long lists of things.

Setting up the technique is simple, the article said, and involves calling to mind your own house, and imagining going into it.

As you walk along you assign a number to each familiar object. For example, the front door is 1, and the doorkknob is 2, and the living room couch is 3, the lamp is 4, and so on. Memorizing the number/object sequence will be easy because the interior of your own house is already permanently locked in your memory.

Then, when you want to memorize a number of objects, like perhaps those in a grocery list, all you have to do is visualize each item attached to or near the objects in your house. For example, number one on the list is tomatos, so you imagine the front door is spattered with red. Hanging from the doorknob, number two, is a sack of onions. It doesn't take long to make those connections.

The beauty of the technique is that you will be able to recite the list backwards or forward. Or tell what number any item is on the list.

This mnemonic system is not something new. It springs from a pre-written-language oral tradition. Quintilian, the first-century Roman rhetorician, wrote: “… in the mnemonic method of loci used by Somonides, everything one wished to remember was assigned an image and location, in an imaginary building,” etc.

I tried it out on my father. "Write down 20 things in a grocery store," I said, "and in a couple of minutes I'll be able to recite it back to you."

My father frowned with skepticism. But he got out a pencil and paper. I studied the list, handed it back to him.

Then with a beating heart I rattled off the items, one by one. Perfectly. Then I recited the list from the bottom up. "Pick a number," I said, "and I'll tell you which item it is."

My father might well have been astonished. But all he allowed himself to show was annoyance. After all, it was just a clever trick. And he sure as hell didn't like clever tricks coming from a ten year old.

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your picture looks like a place near my house when I was a teenager living on Okinawa. Very few stones were left on top of each other after "The Wars"...Kitanagagusuku is a castle.
With a few stones left.
Very few.


I have been a waitress my entire adult life. I can recall without pad, the orders of "up to" an 8 top. In my head I align what the individual orders with something about their face.

When I place the order to the cooks.....
And when I bring the order back to them.


little Zen in everything...........

a touch of 931 everywhere you go. the scary darkness of our subconcious.


An unlucky number.....the little girl bad at math...looks at it and thinks about death.


Fingers on a hand.
Learned to count with her thumb.
Real people do.

And I still dream...in buildings.


The Number of man. The sense we know about but do not acknowledge.


Not a bad age to try and teach your Father a trick.


Me holding my head....trying to uniform this statement.


Walking down a green set of steps.
In a castle....whose walls fell a long time ago.
It is still wet at the bottom.

My daughter Lara was born on 7/7/70. In 1977 she was 7 years old. When she was born her mother and I had been married 7 years, 7 months. One time my step-father took me to the track in Cleveland. Lara asked me to place a bet for her. I put money on horse number 7 in the 7th race. It won. This all is true. You can't make this stuff up.

No, you cannot make this stuff up.

I was afraid you would crash on me--be smarter and wiser and make little of my statements.

But you didn't.

You gave me more.

Told me your story....

*smile spreading wildly across face*

I believe...


a hermetic art wasn't it?+live journal friends

came to your live journal visiting friends of friends
somehow... the art of memory was one of the hermetic
arts wasnt it in the Renaissance...also a nice example
is Matteo Ricci who wrote in Chinese "Memory Palace"
explicating this art.
anyway a courtesy note that I am adding you to my live
journal friends, you may visit mine and add as it seems
or not contrariwise as tweedledum would say, and in
every case blessin's!
+Seraphim Joseph Sigrist.

Re: a hermetic art wasn't it?+live journal friends

"...the art of memory was one of the hermetic
arts wasnt it in the Renaissance..."

Hmmmm. I was thinking more along the lines of Hermes Trismegistus and his Tabula Smaragdina: "What is below is like what is above; what is above is like what is below."

Happy to befriend you, Seraphim Joseph Sigrist!

Somewhere along the line hermetic came to
stand for also the alchemical and other
related things didnt it?
But if it really is true as great Hermes said
than perhaps arriving at the gates above one
will say to St Peter "dont give me any trouble
now, I know you ,you delivered my mail and
I always gave you a tip at Christmas"(something
by the way which I dont do. only tip those
present and insisting) come to think of
it that recognition of high in low is
commended where it written in a prehermetic
tract "inasmuch as you have done it to the
least of my brothers and sisters ,you did
it to me..."
wandering, where was I, damn forget what this
place was supposed to remind me of, outa here

Yes, alchemy. To a fiction writer the transmutation of base metal is the Joycean metaphor for shaping the experiences that have shaped him. Creating art is also redemptive. After all, he who laughs last, laughs best.

where is that?

a friend of mine in austin said to me, i fear the known more than the unknown.

The Poseidon Garden is on the island of Ischia, at the far end of the Citera beach, at the base of Punta Imperatore.

Yes, known fears have the advantage of being much more unsurprising than the ones that hide most of the time.

so far it's working out, if taken as an average.. i couldn't have dreamed up a mate in my wildest dreams as good as the one i found, yet i did not sincerely forsee how stupid my country could turn out, nor how crappy the school program in which i'm currently enrolled would be. i was prepared to take life solo, never go back to school, and defect to canada, but the one that turned out even better than all the options i foresaw luckily turned out to be the closest to my heart and life. school really sucks though, between that and bush i bet i'd be more hesitant about descending the steps than i was after falling in love.

Nevertheless, it's inevitable that you make the descent. Finding out, finally, what's down there makes you wonder why you didn't go much earlier.

i've been, i pulled up the floorboards. things happen on the surface while we're away, things happen below while we're back, the garden is always dying and growing.

A wonderfully evocative photograph.

Thanks, it's quite an evocative place!

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