Source: The Daily Beast
Today, remembering things—how to spell words, your partner’s cellphone number, birthdays and anniversaries—is fundamentally unnecessary. Who needs to remember details when all of human knowledge is available to you at the touch of a button? The cause of the recent decline of simply ‘knowing stuff’ is clear enough: blame the internet, blame smartphones, blame Google.
To those of us who grew up in pre-internet age we seem spoiled, but the truth is that we are all spoiled. Before the drawn of widespread literacy, information was transferred orally. People remembered lengthy stories, hours-long folktales, and songs and poems that were thousands of verses long. Scholars are in near-agreement that Homer’s Iliad began life as an orally performed poem. Ancient Celtic bards, too, are famous for their ability to recall thousands of stories and poems.
It’s easy to see why memory was so important to ancient peoples and that custodians of a community’s knowledge (religious leaders, elders, etc) would have elevated social status as a result. The question is, how did people do this? Are we just out of practice? How is it that ancient memories were so much better than our own?