Memory: How to Develop, Train and Use It

Chapter XIII

How to Remember Places

There is a great difference in the various degrees of development of “the sense of locality” in different persons. But these differences may be traced directly to the degree of memory of that particular phase or faculty of the mind, which in turn depends upon the degree of attention, interest, and use which has been bestowed upon the faculty in question. The authorities on phrenology define the faculty of “locality” as follows: “Cognizance of place; recollection of the looks of places, roads, scenery, and the location of objects; where on a page ideas are to be found, and position generally; the geographical faculty; the desire to see places, and have the ability to find them.” Persons in whom this faculty is developed to the highest degree seem to have an almost intuitive idea of direction, place and position. They never get lost or “mixed up” regarding direction or place. They remember the places they visit and their relation in space to each other. Their minds are like maps upon which are engraved the various roads, streets and objects of sight in every direction. When these people think of China, Labrador, Terra del Fuego, Norway, Cape of Good Hope, Thibet, or any other place, they seem to think of it in “_this_ direction or _that_ direction” rather than as a vague place situated in a vague direction. Their minds think “north, south, east or west” as the case may be when they consider a given place. Shading down by degrees we find people at the other pole of the faculty who seem to find it impossible to remember any direction, or locality or relation in space. Such people are constantly losing themselves in their own towns, and fear to trust themselves in a strange place. They have no sense of direction, or place, and fail to recognize a street or scene which they have visited recently, not to speak of those which they traveled over in time past. Between these two poles or degrees there is a vast difference, and it is difficult to realize that it is all a matter of use, interest and attention. That it is but this may be proven by anyone who will take the trouble and pains to develop the faculty and memory of locality within his mind. Many have done this, and anyone else may do likewise if the proper methods be employed.

The secret of the development of the faculty and memory of place and locality is akin to that mentioned in the preceding chapter, in connection with the development of the memory for names. The first thing necessary is to develop an _interest_ in the subject. One should begin to “take notice” of the direction of the streets or roads over which he travels; the landmarks; the turns of the road; the natural objects along the way. He should study maps, until he awakens a new interest in them, just as did the man who used the directory in order to take an interest in names. He should procure a small geography and study direction, distances, location, shape and form of countries, etc., not as a mere mechanical thing but as a live subject of interest. If there were a large sum of money awaiting your coming in certain sections of the globe, you would manifest a decided interest in the direction, locality and position of those places, and the best way to reach them. Before long you would be a veritable reference book regarding those special places. Or, if your sweetheart were waiting for you in some such place, you would do likewise. The whole thing lies in the degree of “want to” regarding the matter. Desire awakens interest; interest employs attention; and attention brings use, development and memory. Therefore you must first _want to_ develop the faculty of Locality–and want to “hard enough.” The rest is a mere matter of detail.

One of the first things to do, after arousing an interest, is to carefully note the landmarks and relative positions of the streets or roads over which you travel. So many people travel along a new street or road in an absent-minded manner, taking no notice of the lay of the land as they proceed. This is fatal to place-memory. You must take notice of the thoroughfares and the things along the way. Pause at the cross roads, or the street-corners and note the landmarks, and the general directions and relative positions, until they are firmly imprinted on your mind. Begin to see how many things you can remember regarding even a little exercise walk. And when you have returned home, go over the trip in your mind, and see how much of the direction and how many of the landmarks you are able to remember. Take out your pencil, and endeavor to _make a map_ of your route, giving the general directions, and noting the street names, and principal objects of interest. Fix the idea of “North” in your mind when starting, and keep your bearings by it during your whole trip, and in your map making. You will be surprised how much interest you will soon develop in this map-making. It will get to be quite a game, and you will experience pleasure in your increasing proficiency in it. When you go out for a walk, go in a round-about way, taking as many turns and twists as possible, in order to exercise your faculty of locality and direction–but always note carefully direction and general course, so that you may reproduce it correctly on your map when you return. If you have a city map, compare it with your own little map, and also re-trace your route, in imagination, on the map. With a city map, or road-map, you may get lots of amusement by re-traveling the route of your little journeys.

Always note the names of the various streets over which you travel, as well as those which you cross during your walk. Note them down upon your map, and you will find that you will develop a rapidly improving memory in this direction–because you have awakened interest and bestowed attention. Take a pride in your map making. If you have a companion, endeavor to beat each other at this game–both traveling over the same route together, and then seeing which one can remember the greatest number of details of the journey.

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