The Loss Of Memory And Attention (Podcast)

As individuals and as a society, we are steadily losing our long-term memories. Endless stimulation and “choices” have nearly turned us into the protagonist in the film Memento (2000), whose memory-loss condition puts him at the mercy of others’ manipulations.  Rote memorization–unfairly maligned by modern educators–has its merits, and deserves a reconsideration.


This podcast is available in a number of formats, including Soundcloud, iTunes, Google Play, and YouTube.  


Learn more about character and virtue in my bold, ground-breaking new translation of Sallust’s The Conspiracy of Catiline and The War of Jugurtha:


9 thoughts on “The Loss Of Memory And Attention (Podcast)

  1. Excellent podcast. Our ability to learn is a topic that I’m exploring more and more due to my growing interest in learning new languages.

    I think what’s happening with the society is that schools are simply giving into the students’ shorter attention-spans by adopting more attention-grabbing methods of teaching. Instead of acting as the bulwark against modern technology and the subsequent degradation of our ability to learn, they’re opting for the lazy path of going with the flow. It’s a total capitulation. I also can’t stand all the efforts to use multimedia and to turn all learning into games. For example, I used to use Duolingo, but now I think it’s an abomination.

    I agree that rote memorization and memorization in general should be reconsidered and refined, not be done away with. And, depending on what your goals are, differentiating between simply inputting information into your memory and recalling that information at a later time is crucial. Check out this video and you’ll see why using flashcards (I use Anki) for spaced repetition is such an effective way to memorize large number of facts:

    By the way, Quintus, out of curiosity, how many languages do you know and are learning besides Portuguese, Latin, and Arabic?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Corey. Yes, you’re right, the schools have failed miserably in passing on the legacy of the culture to the latest generations. That’s one of the reasons why I do what I do.
      As for the languages: yes, those three I know. But my Arabic is very rusty now. Have not used it in a few years…but enough is still in long-term memory that I could reactivate if needed!


  2. Succinctly put Q.

    The part where you talk about rote memorisation leading to internalisation of the lessons, wording and structuring of a piece is true.

    As you know, my prior exchanges with you consisted of poorly constructed sentences and obscure thinking. However by continuing to re-read your works it has lead me to writing paragraphs which are easier to understand and more well thought out without any voluntary effort.

    I believe you are right with “deterioration”, society is essentially confusing us with too much to the point where we have no affiliation with anything. When we are surrounded plenty we are unable appreciate anything as we have never experienced little. (This I find applies to materialistic items, relationship etc.)

    Good podcast and more food for thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This podcast was great. You touch on so many relevant points. One of the reasons why those people were able to copy plays by simply attending and remembering, was because across society, story telling was often the only medium with which people could pass news. People who had not seen each other in years or even months would have to fill up the gaps of time with their tales. We actually see the same thing today when people meet up after a long absence, they start to exchange stories. Now however, due to Facebook and email, one already feels “caught up” on everything. More importantly, there is less need to note in one’s memory what is happening, because we feel that something or someone else is doing it for us. I feel that that leads to a very detached appreciation of ones surroundings, and certainly a loss of situational awareness. What captures peoples attention – and is even believed to be meaningful – are the sensual delights that cater to our base nature. There is a attention-arms race that is simply unsustainable and wrecking havoc on society.

    I’m learning a language now, and i haven’t been so intellectually humbled in my life. It’s clear I developed a short attention span over there years and now I’m paying the price. I hope this language learning will get me back on track, along with other habits I am employing, namely putting away my smart phone, or altogether just leaving it behind when i go on trips. Maybe I cannot take any pictures, but I can be present in the moment and enjoy myself.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A couple of great books on the subject of how the internet is rewiring our brains.

    Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other – Sherry Turkle, 2012
    The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains – Nicholas Carr, 2010
    Utopia Is Creepy: And Other Provocations – Nicholas Carr, 2016
    The Attention Merchants: The Epic Scramble to Get Inside Our Heads – Tim Wu, 2016

    Books/Magazines to help you disconnect from the madness of modernity:
    First Things Magazine (superb writing)
    Good Old Days magazine
    The Imitation of Christ – Thomas A’Kempis
    An Introduction to the Devout Life – St. Francis De Sales
    On Hunting – Sir Roger Scruton
    Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World – Archbishop Charles Chaput


  5. Great podcast. Interpreters, particularly consecutive interpreters, still keep the tradition of memorization. Check out Lourdes De Rioja on youtube.


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