Socrates, my wife pointed out, believed that writing would weaken the necessity and the power of memory. This was an interesting point coming from the queen of making lists, and who just recently has begun to take a digital photo of the shopping list on our kitchen door to take with her on her tablet that she takes with her to the grocery store. There are terabytes of memory storage in our house that we have only begun to fill, but it all starts with a list.
Of course it was Plato who did us all the favor of writing down what Socrates was prattling on about so that centuries later we could take note of just how silly he sounded. "Don't write things down. It makes your mind weak." Really? How do you suppose you get on the best seller list without getting something on paper first? I'm guessing that Socrates' agent probably had a fit on that one.
Did Socrates have an agent? Does the fact that I can press a few buttons and click my mouse to find out make me smart or stupid? All the stored up memories of the last two thousand years are pretty much just hanging around out there in cyberspace waiting to be reinvigorated. When I used to forget things, I would worry that they would be lost to the ages. Happily, I know that I can call my mother, who tends to remember those things that have slipped my mind. She was greatly relieved by the advent of Al Gore's Internet. Now I can ask Google where Gene Kelly was born. It does cheat me out of the pleasant and often more fulfilling interaction that I might have had with my mother. These are the sacrifices we make in this modern world.
There was a time when I felt that I was a fairly impressive repository of information myself. I carried around all manner of data that made me a very useful partner in Trivial Pursuit games. All this trivia made for some sparkling conversation, if not a little diverted by tangents presented by the odd associations that were generated by synapses so hard at work recalling connections between life and TV shows I had seen in my youth.
Now we have YouTube. My memory of Peter Bogdanovich's musical misfire "At Long Last Love" is taken care of by the International Movie Database. It doesn't come with the dressing of having seen the poster outside Radio City Music Hall on an Easter Sunday just after my family had watched "The Great Waldo Pepper" on a Big Apple vacation that took us to Broadway as well where we saw Doug Henning in "The Magic Show." It was on that same trip that I bought the soundtrack to "Young Frankenstein." I carried it home and proceeded to commit all that zany dialogue to memory.
Decades later, my wife finds it hard to be in the same room with me when that movie is on, along with a number of others for which I have the capacity to regurgitate whole scenes on command. And sometimes even when I am commanded not to.
Maybe I should just write them down.