笔记本里有什么? / What’s in a Notebook?

 

我的那些旧笔记本就像是一群杂种狗……“汪!汪!” / Like a pack of mongrel dogs …”woof! woof!”

笔记本里有什么?

先父是一位才华横溢的作家。看到我从很小的时候起就对提高写作水平感兴趣,他便鼓励我记笔记,以备今后参考和写作之用。

我从多才多艺的英国已故著名作家安东尼•伯吉斯(Anthony Burgess)得到过类似的忠告,我很幸运,在大学期间听了他一年的写作课。

年轻人总是听不进明智的建议,但幸运的是,在这一点上,我听进去了。

现在,我的那些旧笔记本就像是一群杂种狗:数量众多,形状、大小、颜色五花八门;很多笔记本的页边已经有点破旧,有的还带着咖啡渍;每个本子里都记着随处观察到的点滴精华。它们激活了旧日的记忆,至少从这个角度说,它们也算得上是活着的、会吸呼的生命。

我在写博客时发现,阅读多年前写下的观察片段,常常触动一连串相关的回忆和观察。而重新唤起一个人对以前经历的回忆,只是笔记本的重要好处之一。

我们的记忆和身体的肌肉有些类似,可以通过持续的锻炼加以强化和发展。如果我们不锻炼,就不会有这样的能力。提到锻炼记忆力,一些人主要会联想起他们上学的年代,认为这么做必定是为了记住知识,以通过学校的考试。

而真正聪明的人,无论是经商还是从事其他职业,都有锻炼记忆能力的持久决心和自律精神,因为他们认识到,这种能力除了上学时需要外,还会让人终生受用。

有清楚的证据表明,玩麻将、打桥牌、做填字或数独游戏的老人患痴呆症或失忆症的可能性较小。

我的一位高中老师是耶稣会牧师,拥有令人称奇的背诵文章能力。他是一位天分极高的语言学家,教授拉丁文和希腊文。他给我们的好建议是:在每天的24小时当中,我们的记忆只有40分钟处于“超强收受”的状态,而在其余的23小时20分钟,我们的脑子里总是塞满了噪音或干扰。

“超强收受”的40分钟包括临睡前的20分钟和清晨醒来后的20分钟。当年,在我为了参加小测验和考试而背汉字时,这个建议帮了我大忙。您也试一下吧,真的管用。

我曾见过其他一些记忆能力很强的人,我认为那是训练的结果,而非天生禀赋。

几年前,我作为一个15人组成的商务代表团成员之一访问华盛顿。代表团会见了美国政府的一位高级贸易官员。此前,她和代表团所有人都未曾谋面。我们在她的部门的会议室见面,谈了30分钟,并交换了名片。之后,她请我们在员工餐厅吃了一顿简单的自助午餐。

午餐结束时,我们向她致谢告辞,鱼贯走出餐厅。而她则一一称呼着我们的名字:“汤姆,很高兴能见到你”,“弗兰克,谢谢你能来”,“比尔,希望能再见到你”,等等,表现出的记忆力绝对令人称奇。

你可能会纳闷儿:写这些跟我的博客主题有什么关系?其实这正回答了这篇博客题目中提出的“笔记本里有什么”的问题,因为如果没有收藏的那些五花八门的笔记本,我就写不出这些博客来。

谢谢你,爸爸,你给了我另一条伟大的忠告。

现在,如果您不介意,我最好还是去做我的填字游戏了,因为我不会打桥牌,不玩麻将,也不做数独。

What’s in a Notebook?

My late father was a very talented and capable writer. Watching my interest in writing develop from a fairly young age, he encouraged me to keep notebooks for future reference and writing use.

I received similar advice from a very famous and versatile English writer, the late Anthony Burgess, under whom I was very fortunate to take a year-long writing seminar during my university days.

Young men don’t always listen to wise advice, but on this point, fortunately, I listened.

My old notebooks now resemble a pack of mongrel dogs: lots of them, all of different shapes, sizes, and colors; many a bit scruffy around the edges, with occasional coffee stains; each one containing eclectic bits and pieces of observation from here and there; all somehow living, breathing creatures at least in the sense that they give life to old memories.

As I have discovered in writing this blog, reading a snippet of observation written many years ago is often a trigger for a cascade of related memories and observations. Refreshing one’s memory of past experiences is only one important dividend which notebooks pay.

Our memory is a similar to the muscles in our body. We have the ability to strengthen and develop it through ongoing exercise, or not, as we choose. Some people associate exercising their memory mainly with the years when they are in school, and the related need to retain information in order to pass tests.

Really smart people, whether in business or other professions, have an ongoing determination and discipline to develop their memory skills, because they realize these skills have lifelong applications extending far past our school years.

There is clear evidence showing that old folks who play majong, bridge, word puzzles or sudoku are less likely to suffer the effects of dementia and memory loss.

One of my high school teachers, a Jesuit priest, had an amazing ability to memorize texts. He was a gifted linguist, and taught Latin and Greek. Some very wise advice which he gave us was that out of every 24 hour period, there are 40 minutes when our memories are super receptive, as compared with the other 23 hours and 20 minutes during which they are cluttered with static and interference.

The “super receptive” 40 minutes are the twenty minutes just before sleep, and the twenty minutes when we first wake in the morning.

This advice also served me very well in memorizing Chinese characters for quizzes and tests. Try it. It really works.

I have met other people with ex ceptionally well-developed memory skills, which I think are a product of training more than innate inherited abilities.

I was part of a 15-member business delegation to Washington, D.C. some years ago. Our group met with a senior US government trade official. She had not met any of us before. We met in her department’s conference room for a 30-minute discussion during which we exchanged business cards. Afterwards, she invited us for a simple buffet lunch in their staff cafeteria.

At the end of that luncheon, as we thanked her, bid farewell, and began to walk out in single file, she addressed each and every one of us by our first name, e.g. “Good to meet you, Tom “, “Thanks for coming by, Frank,” “Hope to see you again, Bill,” etc. An absolutely amazing display of memory skill.

You may be wondering what all this has to do with the main subject of my blog. That’s the answer, of course, to the question posed in the title of this post “What’s in a notebook?” because without my collection of mongrel notebooks, I would not have been able to write this blog.

Thanks, Dad, for another piece of great advice.

Now if you’ll excuse me, since I don’t play bridge, majong or sudoko, I’d better get back to my word puzzles.


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