PAGES REREAD - MEMORIES RELIVED
Effectiveness: 1/0 Effort: 1/10 Enjoyment: 10/10
This weeks habit challenge was to re-read one page of a random book from my book shelf, every day of the week. For the past couple of years I have been creating a mental list of books I want to reread, but have always gone with something new when the choice presented itself. I like to read about everything from biology and astrophysics to human history and religion. The problem I face, is retaining all of this information once I've finished reading. When a couple of months have passed, only the broad ideas presented in the books remain. The details fade away. My idea for this week was to stimulate the parts of my brain that had already read and understood these books, without actually rereading them. In the same way that a smell can trigger the the memories of an entire summer, I wanted to see if reading one page from a book could make me remember the details of the whole thing?
The experiment failed.
I was not able to regain all the knowledge I had once read and understood, simply by reading one random page from that book. This is what I expected. After all it was a long shot and would have been considered a super power if it had worked. However, I did discover something arguably more amazing.
I started realising that a pattern was emerging about half way through the week. I picked a book from the shelf at random, turned to a random page, and started reading. As soon as I read the first sentence I immediately felt memories flooding back into my conscious awareness. I began remembering not the contents of the book, but vividly where I had been when I originally read the book. It was honestly incredible and something totally unexpected.
When I was choosing what book to read from, I wasn't thinking about the circumstances surrounding it. It was only once I started to read that I immediately pictured myself back in that specific time and place. I remember reading Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari on the sunny beaches of Paleochori in Milos, Greece. The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle in a bustling Starbucks in Chelsea, London. The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins in a dark messy University dorm room in Canterbury, England. Exploring The World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge in a slightly less dark and less messy University dorm room in Canterbury, England. Ask and It Is Given by Esther and Jerry Hicks in Bryant park in New York City as the sounds of traffic echoed among the skyscrapers. Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway on a towel next to a lake in the quiet Bois de Boulogne park on the outskirts of Paris. Awaken The Giant Within by Tony Robbins in my high ceilinged airy studio flat in Stockwell, London.
The surprising thing was the amount of detail I was able to recall after only reading one page. I remembered small details like where I had just been, who I was with, and what time of year it was. I also remembered big details like what my major goals were at the time of reading, what I was struggling with, and why I had chosen to read the book in the first place. Reading one page placed me, for a brief moment, in the mindset I had been in while reading, something I have never experienced before.
When reading Sapiens, I was on vacation with my girlfriend, island hopping through Greece for two weeks. I read the book on the beach in the scorching heat, stopping every thirty minutes to cool off in the turquoise water. I remember feeling a profound sense of being alive as I swam through an underwater cave. The pages have a salty texture and are slightly water damaged from picking up the book after a dip. I was feeling relaxed, passionate, and romantic while reading about how multiple human species roamed the earth up until 10,000 years ago.
When reading The Power of Now, I had just moved to London and was still living in an Airbnb before moving into my new flat. I rode the underground to have lunch with my girlfriend who was at the time working in Chelsea. I arrived two hours early and decided to pass the time by having an iced black coffee while reading my new book. I remember taking a picture of the cover and posting it to Instagram. Something I had never done before. A couple of weeks earlier I had decided to start my own one man company and work as a freelance filmmaker. I was optimistic. While sitting in Starbucks I remember looking up and trying one of the book's exercises. Namely, imagining that you are a body with no head. The idea is to become aware of the fact that you are thinking, and that thinking is coming from your mind, and that you are not your body, yet your mind is part of your body. Its safe to say that I was confused but intrigued. I am still learning to meditate to this day.
When reading The God Delusion I was just starting my third year of University. For the most part I read the book sitting in a velvety purple arm chair that I had bought at a second hand store. I placed it in the middle of my room, completely ruining any sense of flow or intelligent arrangement. In the evening before reading I would make myself an Old Fashioned cocktail...
- Large lowball whiskey glass.
- One brown sugar cube.
- Three dashes of Angostura bitters.
- 10ml cold water.
- Dissolve sugar in bitters and water mixture with wooden muddler.
- Add three ice cubes.
- 25ml bourbon whiskey (Makers Mark or Jim Beam)
- Stir for 1 minute using mixing spoon.
- Three more ice cubes.
- 25ml additional bourbon whiskey.
- Stir for another minute until glass frosts on the outside.
- Squeeze the essential oils from the peel of an orange and rub on the rim of the glass, then drop the peel into the glass.
- Garnish with one pink maraschino cherry.
I was feeling fancy pants and somehow rebellious while reading about how the phenomenon of religion is comparable to a moth flying into a flame. At night a moth calibrates its flight path by using the moon as a primary reference point. This naturally selected genetic trait, to be attracted to light, normally serves it well and allows it to survive. Obviously, not so much when its a flame. Doing what your parents tell you to do normally serves you well. It keeps you away from cliffs, away from fire, shows you what is safe to eat, and how to interact with others. You are genetically programmed to listen to what your parents tell you and this keeps you alive and healthy. Why would you do any different when they tell you to believe in a God.
When reading Exploring The World of Lucid Dreaming, I was in my final year of University, researching for my Masters film project, a movie about a man using lucid dreaming to communicate with his dead girlfriend. I would read in bed before going to sleep, to try and induce a lucid dream myself. On my bedside table I kept a dream journal that I would record my dreams in when waking up in the middle of the night. I remember falling asleep while mentally chanting "I will have a lucid dream tonight." on repeat. I was so deep into this project that my ultimate goal at the time was to 'rehearse' filming the scenes I had scripted, inside of my lucid dreams. It didn't work.
When reading Ask and It Is Given I was visiting the United States for the first time. I had just flown into New York City, and while my family decided unwisely to have a nap after the long journey, I decided to go out and explore as much of the city as I could. After a few hours I stopped in Bryant Park to rest my legs and remember reading two full chapters about the law of attraction. On that day I decided to follow their advice and make a 'creation box', a box of any kind that contains pieces of paper with goals written on them. I still open the box every so often crossing off goals I have achieved, discarding ones I no longer want to pursue, and adding new ones. I strongly believe that your thoughts determine your reality. You can think anything into existence.
When reading Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises I was in the middle of what I think is a mandatory Hemingway obsession that all readers go through. I was so into this book that I planned my entire day around reading it. At the time, I was in a long distance relationship and was visiting my girlfriend in Paris. I had the days to myself while she finished work. One of those days I decided to hike to a park with my book in my backpack. I stopped at a cafe on the way and bought two large cans of ice cold beer. I found the perfect spot where no one would bother me, near the lake. I spent probably four hours there, drinking cold beer and reading about bull fighting, siestas, and heavy drinking. I have been sober for over a year now but that was a good day.
When reading Awaken The Giant Within I was in the early stages of developing the idea that has now turned into my first feature length film. I was in the process of learning how to control my own thoughts and emotions, and was reading as many self help books as I could. By trying to teach my brother some of the same mindsets and strategies I was reading about, I was solidifying in my own mind what I was learning. He was suffering from anxiety and depression and I was trying to help him. The book thought me that suffering is a choice. Whatever happens to you is secondary to how you choose to react to it. I am still trying to figure that one out, but I think its true. What about you?
This weeks habit challenge was meant to be quick and simple. It takes no more than a minute each day, but the rewards have been indescribable. Secondary to actual video footage, it is the closest I will ever come to reliving the memories created around the times of reading. The individual author's recognisable writing style combined with the few ideas mentioned on a single page was enough to remind me of the experience of reading the entire book. The experience of reading a book, something you return to many days in a row, is naturally blended with your real life experience. Rereading them, even just parts of them, is enough to bring you back to that time in your life. If you don't believe me, give it a try and let me know how it went.
Happy habit building!