3.2 • Three Techniques
Whether pictures or sounds, repetition can be used to remember something. But repetition alone is somewhat tedious and error-prone. Pictures can be enhanced by imagining the picture in vivid detail or by making it strange or humorous. How can sound be enhanced? By music. (Note: If you’re not good at music, don’t worry; I’ll be explaining other ways to memorize sounds later in this tutorial.)
It may take a lot of effort to memorize the U.S. Pledge of Allegience or a chapter from the Bible, but you probably know all the words to your favorite song on the radio without your even having to spend any effort at it! Songs are so rhythmic and so much fun that memorization comes easy.
Just like one can create pictures in the mind to memorize something, you can also create songs in the mind. And once again, it may seem silly, but it works! I’ve come up with my own songs to memorize Psalm 117 and 1 Corinthians 10:13. I don’t have to share the songs with anyone, but for me, it’s a terrific way to remember the verses word-for-word exactly. Just try to invent your own tune… or attempt to fit the words you want to memorize to an existing tune.
The only problem is that inventing a song is much more difficult than enhancing a picture. The song has to sound good, otherwise you won’t remember it. Also, the more words there are, the harder it is to make a good, unified song. (Psalm 117 was easy because it’s the shortest Psalm.) On the other hand, I think you can actually go to a Christian bookstore and find cassettes of verses which someone has set to music specifically for the purpose of memory… if you can find something like this, go for it!
Is there a movie that you’ve watched 10 times? If so, chances are you know a lot of the lines by heart, especially the memorable ones. Because of repetition, your brain has remembered the sounds. And it works better than just saying something out loud 10 times, because it’s someone else speaking, and they have an interesting voice, and they say the lines in a certain way. And you hear the lines in exactly the same way every time because the recording reproduces the sounds exactly.
Well, if it works for movies, why not take advantage of this approach to memorize something? Just get a tape recorder and record the Bible (or other) passage that you want to memorize, then play it back a bunch of times. It may get boring if you listen to it 10 times in a row, but you can do it once a day instead.
In my own experienced I’ve discovered that after using this method I can almost get a Bible passage exactly right. But I still get stuck. So then I use traditional repetition to “fill in the gaps.” But it goes a lot quicker because large phrases are already burned in the mind… it’s just a matter of stringing it all together.
The Secret Repetition Method
My biggest problem is time. Even the tape recorder method still takes time and effort to set up the recording and then to find suitable periodic time slots to listen to it. Arrrgh! I imagine many of you are in the same boat… always 50,000 things to do in a day. So when in the world are we ever going to find time to memorize whole chapters from the Bible?
I have found a really neat idea. I write out a whole chapter from the Bible on a small card that will fit in my wallet. Or, alternatively, I can access my Bible on the computer and print it out on my printer with the smallest font. In any case, I make a card that I can take with me at all times.
Then… I wait for an opportunity. I wait for some moment in which I’m alone and just waiting for something, such as waiting in line. Then I pull out my card and start memorizing what is on it. Even though I’m busy-busy-busy and want to use my time most efficiently, I don’t have to feel guilty about memorizing at a time like this because I can’t do anything else anyway.
The only problem is that you can’t read aloud from the card over and over again while other people are around — they’ll think you’re crazy! Instead, I glance at the card and read the first sentence or other suitable sentence fragment that I can keep in my head all at once. Then I put the card away and silently repeat the sentence over and over again in my mind. It’s really not very hard at all… and I can be looking around at other things, smiling at people, etc. … and all the while gently repeating the sentence in the back of my mind. After I’ve repeated it aboutthirty times, I glance at the card again for the next sentence, then put it back again.
What a terrific method! You’ll soon find there are lots of occasions in which you might be able to memorize Bible verses at, including:
- Waiting in line at grocery store
- Waiting for movie to start
- Driving in car
- Taking a walk
- Lifting weights or doing other exercises
I even used the method while at a 3-day trade show in Chicago. Each day involved so much waiting and standing! But while standing there smiling and waiting for the next person to walk by, I was mentally rehearsing the next Bible verse from a memory card. So I had great fun during the trade show, and everyone thought I was so happy and patient, and no one knew I memorized all of 2 Corinthians chapters 4 and 5 during the show!
My biggest desire is for time, and I’ve managed to find a way to utilize very long chunks of previously wasted time. And there’s so much time available that there’s no problem in using plain old repetition to memorize the verses. It may seem slow… like 5 minutes a verse, but if you are, for example, spending an hour in the car once a week, you’d probably be able to memorize a whole chapter in a month. Now that’s pretty amazing! At that rate you could memorize the entire New Testament in only 22 years!
During the long sessions my emphasis is on sheer quantity. I’ve found it too difficult to concentrate on getting the sequence of all of the verses perfectly, especially since that would involve looking at the card too much, so I just focus on sheer repetition. It’s probably better to memorize a verse far more than necessary — perhaps 60 times — topound it into memory permanently than to worry about how it all strings together. At some later time when I’m alone and can think more clearly I can do a quick review to get the sequence right and to refresh my memory on the verses. But this session tends to go very quickly because as soon as I start on a verse, the rest of the verse just mechanically comes right out!
(For those of you interested in additional hints about how to memorize Bible verses this way, click here.)