Foreword

Once again my gifted young friend—and if I may say so with pride, protégé—Tony Buzan has asked me to give one of his eminently useful books a send-off.

In a lop-sided kind of comparison, if you already have a good memory, training is not needed, and if you do not—well, now useful really is training?

I can answer this conundrum by suggesting that memory exists only in the use of it. It may not be true that everyone has a good memory to begin with, although I should like to think so; but it is certainly true that many people simply do not use the memory they have.

It has always seemed to me that memory systems tend to be cumbersome, even though, as you will see, I have developed one of my own. They are like crutches, when one ought to walk unaided. How much simpler to remember the thing directly rather than to have to remember a way ofremembering

A fine way to send off a book on memory training, you may say—but let me add quickly that to my mind the real value of memory training and a book such as Tony Buzan's is that it is, or should be, self-liquidating, so to speak. No doubt memory can be trained, like an unused muscle, on a dumbbell, but in the end the dumbbell is thrown away and the muscle goes to work on the job to be done rather than on a training aid.

Could you remember something—let us assume you have a 'bad memory'—ifyou had to? James Bond lay dying. 'The formula,' he whispers, '... can say it only once Your life depends on it____The world will go smash if you don't.

This attention set seems to me all-important in remembering. Let me give you a small example. Someone gives you his telephone number over the telephone. Almost invariably nine persons out of ten will say: 'Would you mind repeating that?' Why? He said it perfectly clearly the first time. All you had to do was to press the switch marked 'attention set' rather than leaving the one on that says 'Oh, I'll get it on the second or third try'. A matter of habit. Of course, I happen to be one of those lucky people who can repeat the number out loud, and then actually 'hear it' for a long time, simply by listening. Try it some time.

One more thing. Memory is not just a quantitative faculty. Its potential capacity is probably astronomical, but I suspect it is not unlimited, although few of us are in danger of getting even near the limit. Yet I do know two men, each of whom speaks—and speaks fluently, idiomatically—more than a dozen languages, and, sad to relate, neither of them has anything of importance to say in any of them! Don't try to turn yourself into an 'idiot savant'.

I long ago gave up making a vast parking lot of facts and figures of my mind. It's enjoyable enough to dazzle people with displays of esoteric knowledge (I have sometimes described knowledge as 'the opium of the intelligent'), but what is the point, really? Do you want to be a walking almanac? It's no great hardship to carry a small book of telephone numbers, or to keep an encyclopaedia on your shelves.

Today I try to use my memory for storing up relationships, how things hang together, insight. I see the great function and aim of mind, with its marvellous tool, memory, as integration, or, if you will forgive the grandiloquent term, wisdom. Tony Buzan's book Speed Memory is an excellent 'first step' toward the realisation of that goal.

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