Tuesday, October 16, 2007


To memorize or not to memorize, I know its a big topic of conversation all over the masonic blogosphere and I am currently entrenched in a battle with my brain to memorize a lecture for an upcoming Fellowcraft degree. Although I am not yet attempting the mother of all lectures (the M.C.) I am doing the G lecture in our upcoming degree which I am having a bit of trouble.
Early in my masonic career I was recognized as someone who had the wherewithal and talent to do lectures in degrees. I gave my first Working Tools lecture as a Fellowcraft to two E.A.'s receiving the degree just a little bit after I had been passed. It was quite an intimidating experience that I will never forget. I will also never forget the look of pride and handshake our Tiler gave me after my performance. I think I was a non entity in the lodge to some of the older brothers at that point and I felt that it opened their eyes to me as a mason.
When I received my 2nd degree I was so impressed with the M.C. lecture that I received, that I have held it as the epitome of a great lecture and have tried to emulate the performance in all of my subsequent lectures. It was given without a prompt and with great feeling and stately delivery.
I can see now just how impressive it was to deliver, it is an incredibly long lecture to memorize and give. I have given numerous Working Tools witch I thought were not so bad to learn. I have given the E.A. First Section Lecture a couple of times which seemed long when I first looked at it but turned out much easier than thought because it is given with a partner. I think the question answer format is quite helpful in learning and delivery. So when we were planning our upcoming F.C. degree I wanted to do something different so, as much as I would have liked to give the M.O.A.L. (Mother Of All Lectures) M.C., I volunteered for the G lecture which I thought was a good primer for my lecturing future.
I was very excited at first look of it. It conveyed great truths and ideas and was right up my esoteric alley so to speak. But after more than a month of reading it out loud and in my head I find that by the middle of the lecture even my head tunes out for a while. I can do the beginning and the end and a couple of parts in the middle but I am having a hard time doing the whole thing.
I decided to take a break and do this post hoping that maybe my few readers would have some suggestions with the art of memorization, but I know I have to get back to the grinder to get it right before Thursday night. I know in the end I will pull it off, I just needed a break from my own voice ringing in my head with the same thing over and over again! Memorization can be the pits!


Tom Accuosti said...

Everybody has their own way of memorizing. FOr me, it was helpful to record myself on a micro-cassette and play it every day back and forth between work and home. 20 minutes a day, and each day I'd try to learn one or two more paragraphs.

Some do it by writing. Yes, it's boring, but you could try writing, or typing out the passage.

You could try videotaping yourself reading the passages, and playing those if your style is more audio-visual.

And of course, there's always the rote "read until your eyeballs fall out" method.

Traveling Man said...

I too was inspired by the M.O.A.L. given by R.W. Bro. Burt Tuttle.

Last night, I gave the same lecture. Without prompt, and my feet have not touched the ground since.

Traveling Man

Ben said...

Absolutely top quality blog - travelling man (above) pointed me in your direction. Will definitely read with interest.

Have added a link to your blog on mine - www.middlesex-fire.co.uk



M.M.M. from the North Eastern Corner said...

I have this cool little gizmo that lets me record voice onto my I-Pod which I have had in my ear all week, and thanks for the other tips I may try the writing one.
Traveling Man,
Congrats, if you do it again let me know, maybe I can get myself out of district 1 for an evening.
Young Mason,
Thanks for the positive feedback. I have added your link to mine and have actually been reading you for a while, great stuff!

Tom Accuosti said...

I have tried recording myself into an mp3 file to be played on my Palm. The issue is being able to "rewind" just a sentence or three while driving. The microcassette doesn't need me to look at it, I just hold the button for 1/2 a second or whatever. The mp3 player - at least, the one in my Palm, doesn't have finger-tip control.

Ben R said...

When learning the proficiencies for the three degrees, I met with my counselor, made sure I had deciphered the ritual properly, then made a digital recording of myself reciting the questions and answers.

I used Garage Band, which typically comes installed on newer Macs. It allowed me to highlight the recordings between the questions and delete them -- but without compressing the time. In other words, the space left between each question was ample enough for me to give the answer aloud without bumping into the next question or waiting 20 seconds for it to come.

I converted the recording to MP3 and burned a CD for use in the car. Very effective.

- Ben R.

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

Yeeps! I wish I had stumbled upon your blog sooner--I have some really solid memory suggestions (being a research psychologist).

On the off chance that it will be helpful at this late date, let me suggest this:

Probably the best method ever invented for memorizing long pieces of narrative / sequential material is the method of loci. Locus is the Latin word for "place"; loci, "places." The method actually dates from ancient times, and was widely practiced in medieval and Renaissance times, sometimes in the form of "The Memory Palace." It works like this.

Pick a place, a place you know very well, back-of-your-hand well, preferably a place with lots of architectural details. By 'architectural details,' I mean, rooms, doors--it can be simple stuff; the place need not be hoity toity, but you need a lot of detail. (I used to use a nondescript, very vanilla building that my congregation used for religious meetings. The building had no architectural distinctiveness at all, but it had quite a number of offices, classrooms, and so forth, all of which I knew very well.)

Now imagine yourself taking a walk around this building. Have a definite starting point and stopping point. Name every architectural feature. ("Here's the door I always come into the building at"; "here's the bishop's office"; "here's the clerk's office"; and so on.)

Now put your talk into your walk. For every discrete idea in your lecture, place an image--the more ridiculous the image the better--on an architectural feature, starting at the beginning point, then working your way through the building until you get to the ending point.

When you give the talk, start at the beginning of the walk, then pick up your image and put it away in an imaginary bag as you give your talk.

Scholars used to wander the monasteries and palaces of Europe, memorizing the layouts so that they could use them as "Palaces of Memory," where they could place the symbols of their long sermons, speeches, and so forth. The method will work every bit as well in the 21st century as it did in the 17th.

The suggestion for recording yourself is also extremely solid (and is a method not available to my Renaissance scholars). Combine the methods.

Good fortune to you. You can do this. You will do this. You'll be in my thoughts on Thursday night. Be well.

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben said...

Wow - either I've been blogging in my sleep again, or Ben R isn't me. There's two of us. EEK!