Mr. Eure | Brewster High School
Our second summer text is “Remember This,” by Joshua Foer. As you begin reading, annotating, and reacting to this article, keep the original summer assignment and all formative posts in mind. You might also be interested in these links:
- Remembering to Remember: Joshua Foer at TED 2012
- How to train your mind to remember anything: Joshua Foer, Special to CNN
Those are supplemental articles. Read them and make reference to them as much or as little as you want to; they expand on and deepen “Remember This,” but they are not required. All of these pieces are informational, where our first discussion is built around a personal essay (and note the verb is in that clause; you should continue to discuss Didion as necessary, even as you fold in other authors and texts). Foer offers exploration and exposition, which you will probably experience differently from Didion’s writing. Continue, as you did with Didion, to orbit the text, and realize the purpose of “Remember This”: to connect these remarkable and rare individuals’ memories to our common experience of the world.
You might ask yourself a series of essential questions as you take notes and begin commenting: To what extent would you want to remember the details of your past? To what extent would you want to remember specific kinds of details (for example, to recall with perfect and indelible clarity every fact your teachers tell you will be on various tests)? You might also find a generative or well written quotation, like this:
AJ and EP are extremes on the spectrum of human memory. And their cases say more than any brain scan about the extent to which our memories make us who we are. Though the rest of us are somewhere between those two poles of remembering everything and nothing, we’ve all experienced some small taste of the promise of AJ and dreaded the fate of EP. Those three pounds or so of wrinkled flesh balanced atop our spines can retain the most trivial details about childhood experiences for a lifetime but often can’t hold on to even the most important telephone number for just two minutes. Memory is strange like that.
It would seem as though having a memory like AJ’s would make life qualitatively different—and better. Our culture inundates us with new information, yet so little of it is captured and cataloged in a way that it can be retrieved later. What would it mean to have all that otherwise lost knowledge at our fingertips? Would it make us more persuasive, more confident? Would it make us, in some fundamental sense, smarter? To the extent that experience is the sum of our memories and wisdom the sum of experience, having a better memory would mean knowing not only more about the world, but also more about oneself. How many worthwhile ideas have gone unthought and connections unmade because of our memory’s shortcomings?
As you delve into Foer (and revisit Didion), push yourself to respond to at least one peer’s comment. Remember (a verb that takes on a different kind of meaning in this content) the purpose of this summer work.