Lessons in learning from a London cabbie.
I love your newsletter and found this fascinating. However, I do have a correction. I absolutely guarantee you that TV writers do not look at social media for fan theories. It’s a bit insulting to those of us who write for TV to say that fans, who only watch what we produce, do a better job of it than we do. One day in a writer’s room would disabuse anyone of thinking this. By the way, I am also a huge fan of Dark and am looking forward to their new show. :-)
The last time I was in London (ahem, 32 years ago), my friend who I was visiting insisted I buy an A-Zed, supposedly the most comprehensive collection of maps of the city that existed. “Not even native-Londoners will leave home without it”, she said. I wonder if Londoners still do this, or if it’s gone the way of Google Maps. And it amazes me that the cabbies also don’t simply use Google Maps.
Though I’m glad they don’t if only because it would make them (and makes us) significantly dumber. Studies have shown that the use of GPS technologies has dulled the brain functions that feed both memory and spatial awareness. I’m also weirdly convinced that the passivity it encourages primes us for fascism, or at least feeds our attraction to it. https://ashasanaker.substack.com/p/how-do-we-get-where-were-going
Very interesting. I think I inadvertently/sort of apply the looking at five things by going for morning walks and taking pictures. I often explore the same neighborhoods over and over, and after I've taken pics of the obvious things -- the Acropolis, Bigfoot, the alien spaceship -- I start looking more closely to see the less obvious things that i have missed. And doing that certainly fixes those neighborhoods much more firmly in my mind than anything else.
I love this idea of collected curiosity as a way to memory. Also the act of attention, which is, in a way, an act of prayer, a way to turn towards the world rather than away or indifferent to it. Marvellous stuff!
Thank you for the lovely mention, Mike! My fascination with The Knowledge only deepens...
This is such a great post. As an historical fiction writer, epistemic curiosity is probably life-blood.
But I'm also in the process of learning a new choreography at my ballet class. I'm 71 and find the only way to learn the steps is indeed by rote. What I find really interesting, is that last year's dance was also learned by rote, performed, and then (in my head at least) dissolved! I would ask why?
As a septuagenarian, do those routines have to dissolve to make way for new ones? When all is said and done, the steps and positions are the same - just reconfigured and re-timed. But I haven't the time to think about the why's, I just have to do it! Thanks Mike, for stirring my grey cells.
That ironing board story is hilarious! Now you’ve got me thinking of some of the dumbest things I ever did that I have never lived down.
I think walking in nature with a camera has helped me tremendously with this type of learning. When you really look at things a whole mess of other stuff opens up. Like the field of goldenrod which looks like nothing much is there but you get close and look closer and there are all manner of small bees and bugs moving about within it. And really my job too where not only do I have to solve problems, but almost always with less time and resources than the obvious solutions would require.
I am so grateful to get this reminder of the kind of curiosity you wrote about early on! I took a long hike yesterday by myself and it was so enriching and uplifting and a reminder, also, of how much each of us needs that kind of sustenance, what relationship we can have with the world when it receives our attention and curiosity.
This essay is fantastic. I've been fascinated by the idea of The Knowledge since I first encountered it and I love how you used it as a springboard to cover both memory and problem solving. Thank you, Mike.
Great read, Mike! Also: looking forward to any new book that has the word “Enchantment” in the title.
Stealing the Washington monument example (will use in a presentation I'm working on)! Thanks for a great read Mike!
You also solved a dilemma for me on how to use an expiring audible credit - on Katherine May’s new book!