“Memories are like mulligatawny soup in a cheap restaurant. It is best not to stir them.” P. G. Wodehouse (Author)
Admission: I like this line from Wodehouse as much for its ridiculous image as for how it reminds me to think about the many ways that memory contributes to learning and teaching. Given our purpose here, though, I suppose I will have to press my nose to the ever-turning grindstone and see if I can produce something that, if I were being paid for writing this, would allow me to walk straight up to the pay window without any form of disguise. Enough for my own sad attempt to write a Wodehousean sentence. Not being Wodehouse, perhaps I should switch back to my own voice.
Speakers shape memories into stories, elicit memories from our audience, and create new memories with our lessons. We assume that our students know how to use their memories actively to store the facts and recommendations we teach and that they’ll be able to recall those lessons when they’re most needed in the future. Without memory, there could be no learning, of course, but also very little teaching.
So, no, it’s not best to leave your memories unstirred like a bad soup. In fact, it’s those speakers and teachers who have the best control over their memories – or who have mined their memories for the most useful and pertinent stories – who are the most memorable. Memorable – there’s that memory factor again. As entrepreneurial speakers – or teachers – we seek to be memorable for that’s the only sure sign that we have succeeded in our mission.
Recently I heard a talk in which the speaker advised that we should not merely seek to be great, but that we should hope to become immortal. By that, he meant that we should seek to influence others so they lead better lives in some way. I’m not sure there’s a better reason to teach but to help others lead better lives.
But we won’t be able to influence a single person if we don’t harness our own memories and encourage them to use their own.