Memorization and Freedom II
Bill Long 8/16/09
In the previous essay I listed four areas where memorization would aid a person in learning. Let's consider each in turn.
1. Coffee Aromas. I only learned recently that there is such a thing as the "Q Coffee System," developed by the Coffee Quality Institute. This internationally recognized grading system for evaluating green coffee quality provides an objective measure of coffee quality. But as any who try to measure "taste" or "quality" objectively know, there must be intense attention to the most excruciatingly complete list of particulars in order to put a "number" on taste. So, as this article tells us, a coffee grader (known as a "Q grader") must be able to distinguish and weigh 36 different aromas in order to evaluate the quality of a coffee.
In order to enter more deeply into this world, and into the world that believes that taste can be measured (and the wine world, for example, certainly believes this), you have to learn the list of 36. Or, it would be immensely helpful if you knew this list. By learning the list you enter into the threshold of learning, for it becomes the means by which you can ask more questions of each of the 36. Questions can be raised not only to one of the "Q graders" but to anyone who works in coffee. Relationships are deepened, knowledge is refined and, possibly, we may discover the next "Q grader" in coffee.
Well, you actually can buy a "Le Nez du Cafe" set of 36 aromas the comprise the essences of coffee. Here is the site. Here are the aromas:
"earth, potato, garden peas, cucumber, straw, cedar, clove-like, pepper, coriander seeds, vanilla, tea-rose/redcurrant jelly, coffee blossom, coffee pulp, blackcurrant-like, lemon, apricot, apple, butter, honeyed, leather, basmati rice, toast, malt, mapple syrup, caramel, dark chocolate, roasted almonds, roasted peanuts, roasted hazelnuts, walnuts, cooked beef, smoke, pipe tobacco, roasted coffee, medicinal, rubber."
Learn these, ask about an aroma next time you buy coffee at Starbucks, learn to have these as "frontlets to your eyes" (cf. Deut. 6:8), and worlds of unimagined learning will open for you.
2. The World of Particle Physics. Sixteen elementary types of particles form the basis for the theoretical framework known as the Standard model of fundamental particles an dforces. While there are graphics that point this out, let's do so here in a list:
If you learn this list by heart, and then begin to ask questions about what you don't understand on it, worlds open. "Please explain to me the electron," might be your first query. "Can it be seen by a microscope?" "How was it discovered?" How is it represented pictorially?" "What was happening in 1897 that allowed for its discovery?" Once you learn the one simple fact of its being discovered in 1897, you open all kinds of questions for scrutiny that will leave you, at the end of the day, with more knowledge than 99% of adults out there. And, just think, this will happen after learning only ONE fact. Just think what happens when you walk through all 16 with patience, after you have memorized them? You may become a physicist..
3. I went over the 24 categories into which Linnaeus divided his plant kingdom in his 1735 edition of Systema Naturae here. Learn it, and the whole world of plant taxonomy is potentially at your fingertips. Or, alternatively, learn it and you are immediately ushered into the history of systems of plant taxonomy. Since putting things in their proper categories is the essence of thinking in Western Culture, a deep appreciation of this most complex task will enable you to categorize everything else with skill and ease.
4. One could do this for the fourth area, learning various families and genera of plants or, for that matter, with almost any other area of learning.
Actually, I think the best thing to do is to go very slowly with this memorized learning. Learn one thing. Make sure you have it in mind. Then see how questions emerge about it. Build on the one fact. Use it as a window into or threshold over which one crosses on the way to deeper knoweldge. It will become a cornerstone, then, of your learning--learning that will be enriched, then, as you go onto "fact" # 2. This may, it seems, be a slow way of learning things, but after a few years you will have students of such exceptional depth of knowledge and ability to question well that you will not only be able to get them into any university they want, but you will, eventually, revamp all fields of learning. That, indeed, is the value of memorization...