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Brain check - shadows of echoes of memories of songs — LiveJournal
Brain check
The older I get, the more stupid I feel. At school, I felt as though I knew a lot about my subjects (though not very much about Real Life); at university, I felt as though I knew even more about my subject and quite a lot about Real Life, including some bits of Real Life that I'd've been quite happy not to know about.

Now I don't even know what my subject is any more, and I don't really know anything about Real Life (except the sort that happens while you're waiting for it to happen, but increasingly that feels very detached from any kind of representative reality... but that's a whole nother area of tedious navel-gazing, and one of which I will steer clear for now).

I've forgotten most of the things I knew at university, I've forgotten most of the things I knew at school (and what's left is a bit 1066 and all that), and I feel as though I haven't learned anything properly since leaving university. Yes, I've learned all sorts of things; but I don't feel as though I've learned anything as fully.

Yawn, you say. Terribly boring. Everybody feels like this. Go and read something else, then.

My reliance on the web is partly to blame. There was a time when I had to actually know things in my head because the library shut at 7pm, and we didn't have all the books in the world at home (despite best efforts), and books were where you looked things up. Now it's like an open-text exam with all the books in the world on your desk, and all you have to do to find the answers is leaf through the books, and it doesn't help, even if you're allowed to take annotated copies of all the books in the world, even if they're the teachers' editions with the answers at the back. Which they are, I suppose.

I still have anxiety dreams that are a bit like that, actually. I used to be good at exams, but I have dreams where I don't have a pen and the questions are in a language I don't know and the time seems to be ticking away faster than I can keep track of (and it is, though, it is, isn't it) and everything's all confused and hot. I don't think I'd know where to start now with a real exam. Apart from remembering a pen.

Focus, for god's sake, focus. You've still got all your own teeth. Mostly.

I want to learn everything in the world. I wake up terrified that I'll never be able to learn anything properly again.

There was a time when I'd've thought about something and planned how to write about it and then written it down in proper sentences and edited it and written it out again neatly. This isn't that time any more. It isn't any time. I don't have time. I don't have time.

I am increasingly fed up with having to sleep. Such a waste.

There's more (always), but it's even less coherent (usually).

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From: ewtikins Date: June 9th, 2007 11:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I get this too sometimes.

Thankfully knowledge is not all there is to learn; skills require practice, and I can step away from the computer and do that. Sometimes I even get measurable improvement. It does take up precious time, but that is why I am somewhat selective in terms of which skills I choose to hone.
j4 From: j4 Date: June 10th, 2007 12:19 am (UTC) (Link)
It's interesting that both you and lusercop talk about learning/practising physical skills. I do do that with some things, and in some ways it feels more satisfying, or at least more concrete, which is useful; and I think it helps to get the brain out of that fuzzy brain-is-full-but-must-keep-cramming-stuff-in state... Unfortunately most of the new stuff I want to learn at the moment is computery stuff that I can't easily learn while away from the computer... :-/
lusercop From: lusercop Date: June 9th, 2007 11:56 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's interesting, I think, as you say, everyone goes through this. My remedy, if you can call it that, has been learning to juggle (and all the related disciplines that I'm doing (4 clubs!!)). It's taught me that even as I get older, I can still learn, and I still understand (in fact, I probably understand more than I did at the time) how to learn. Also, it teaches me that learning things is still both worthwhile and fun.

Just because Google exists, doesn't mean you have to consider it in that way.
j4 From: j4 Date: June 10th, 2007 12:21 am (UTC) (Link)
See reply to ewtikins above...

I think I understand more about how I learn, but the problem is I'm increasingly unconvinced a) that I can still learn the way I used to learn, and b) that the ways I learn are still compatible with the things I want to learn. If that makes sense. Bah, is too late (early!) for making sense, sorry.
keirf From: keirf Date: June 10th, 2007 07:04 am (UTC) (Link)
It's odd looking back at my undergraduate days and thinking, "Did I really learn and understand all that maths?" And I can't reconcile how intellectually hard it all was and how easy all the stuff that needs brain power is in post-university work.

But the flip side is that now I have to manage people, make decisions without the chance of ever having all the data I need, organize myself and others and track hundreds of little things for months at an end. Which, although it isn't Galois theory or Analysis III, is actually a lot tougher in some ways.
katstevens From: katstevens Date: June 10th, 2007 09:44 am (UTC) (Link)
As a teenager, before I had to learn anything difficult (say, A-level Maths) then I would fill up my brain with ridiculous amounts of trivia or scripts from tv shows or tracklistings from albums, and I was bloody good at remembering it all, in order (I wonder if spending the majority of my spare time doing high intensity physical activity helped with the concentration?) When things started getting trickier to understand and my brain stopped growing faster than the amount of new information to process (or perhaps because I discovered BOOZE) my brain fell to pieces and my memory is pretty awful. I vowed never to do another exam ever again after finals due to a mixture of laziness, relief and lack of confidence in my own brain power as regards learning huge chunks of stuff. I don't think I *can* learn things that way any longer and I don't think I want to.

Personally I am glad that Google is the new way of 'learning', because researching is one thing I am now very good at that I never was before - someone has finally invented the tool that lets me research things efficiently! Which is basically what my job involves. Pre-Google I never seemed to have the right books or even knew where to start looking for answers. Though there is always the problem of being over-dependent on your primary tool (hur hur hur, that sounds k-rude).
the_elyan From: the_elyan Date: June 10th, 2007 10:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Funnily enough, I think of this issue from the other direction, due to the bottom poem on this page, The Winter Palace.

I can only suggest testing your brain by picking a book you've been meaning to read, and spend some serious time with it, making notes, following up leads (as far as possible without the Net), and testing your critical faculties against it. In my case the book in question is Godel, Escher, bach: an Etrnal Golden Braid, and it's been sitting on my shelf daring me to try it for ages...
taimatsu From: taimatsu Date: June 10th, 2007 11:25 am (UTC) (Link)
I usedt o dip into that book as a nine-year-old - I tended to read the inter-chapter dialogues rather than the serious bits, but I think I absorbed quite a lot that way.
1ngi From: 1ngi Date: June 10th, 2007 11:04 am (UTC) (Link)
I used to laugh at my mum when she would occasionally buy a duplicate of a book she already owned. Because I could remember nearly every sentence of every book I had ever read. Now she has a notebook with a list in her bag and I am considering doing the same because I have started buying duplicates.

That anxiety you speak of - strikes a chord when I sit and think of all the books in the world that I want to read and realise that even if I do nothing else but read books until I die, I will never get to read all the ones that I want to. Being pretty much self-educated, the mental aquisition of books is my way of learning.

And the time thing - oh dear - don't get me started. We've not had the telly for 4 weeks what with the refubishing going on in the living room - and I don't miss it one little bit. Well except for Doctor Who, which we forgot to tape last night anyway. I look at all the stuff I'm doing now, I'm still not reading, and now I am getting worried about having the telly back because it will suck up time that I have not got.

I wonder if the episode we missed is up on Wikipedia yet...

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