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双语:为什么我们会记不住?

2016-03-10    来源:财富中文网    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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 Why Don’t We Remember?

“But though they wrote it all by rote
They did not write it right.”
–W.H. Hudson, “Far Away and Long Ago: A History of My Early Life”
 
An old friend and former colleague just celebrated his 60th birthday. Like all birthdays ending in “zero” after number 20, (e.g. 30th, 40th, and 50th birthdays) 60 seems like a big number when you reach it. After all, everyone is afraid of getting old.
 
Someone wrote a birthday message to my friend on Facebook: “Now is the best part of your life.” When I was 25 or 35, I would have thought that was nonsense. Now, I heartily agree.
 
In Chinese culture, 60 is a very special number, representing the completion of 5 cycles of 12 years. There are many good things about being 60-plus which you don’t discover until you arrive there. You don’t have to believe me, and if you’re in your 20s, you probably won’t. But wait and see. (I’m not just referring to senior discounts, either.)
 
The only disappointment which I’d like to report, with regard to passing this milestone, is that there are still a lot of things I don’t understand. When I was a little kid, I had the wildly mistaken notion that grown-ups understand almost everything — especially gray-haired grandpas and grandmas.
 
Of course as we age, our bodies experience more health and maintenance issues, and memory abilities become challenged. At the same time, there are a wide variety of tools available nowadays to cope with these issues.
 
Think about the mountains of your data stored on your smartphone, your PC, the cloud, etc. And there are more new tools in the pipeline, including some promising new drugs being tested to treat Alzheimers, and all sorts of improved medical diagnostic and treatment technologies.
 
A long time ago I had a luncheon in Hong Kong with a senior American executive of a Fortune 500 company. He was many years older than me, and had become a good friend. He lost his wife after a long battle with cancer.
 
I was around 30 years old, before that stage in life when we start routinely losing friends and family to illness and old age. My older friend, looking on the bright side, said that at least now his late beloved wife was beyond the suffering associated with cancer. He also commented that of all the diseases, Alzheimers was the most terrifying, not cancer.
 
Due to my youthful naivete, this was new to me. His point was not to say that cancer is a disease to be taken lightly, but that Alzheimers was scarier for various reasons.
 
Later, as I learned more about what happens to those suffering from advanced Alzheimers, I understood what he meant.
 
To be of sound physical health, yet unable to recognize or remember your loved ones, or even find your way back home, is indeed very scary — not only for the afflicted, but for their loved ones. With no effective treatment for the disease or its associated loss of memory available yet, it seems a hopeless dilemma.
 
It’s all too easy to take memory for granted until we start losing it.
 
In my experience, Chinese people are less likely to take memory for granted because their education system places such a huge emphasis on rote learning. Apart from the issues of educational systems or pedagogy, there is simply no way to learn thousands of Chinese characters other than by rote learning.
 
I think one benefit to me as a foreigner of studying the Chinese language is that it forces you to develop a disciplined memory. To some extent, memory can be enhanced through regular exercise.
On the other hand, it’s one thing to memorize a poem, a list of Chinese vocabulary words, a series of PIN numbers, or other “things”.
 
It’s quite another to refresh our long-term memories of experiences, encounters, names, faces, places, smells, sights, and so on. How this aspect of human memory functions is more of a mystery.
 
Why is it that one sight, sound, or smell can sometimes trigger a flood of memories of some experience which we’d long since forgotten?
 
And why is it that so often, we remember things which we’d really rather forget, yet forget the things we really should remember?
 
Some memories seem attached to us like superglue; yet others seem to be bound only loosely, as if by a rough paste of flour and water, easily dissolved, dispersed, and disappeared.
 
We all develop coping techniques. One of mine is making lists of things I need to do. I check items off as they are complete, and eventually create a new list. It’s a habit that doesn’t appeal to everyone, but it works for me.
 
The easy part is including the “things” we must do.
 
In the long run, the more important part is finding ways to remember the actions we should take, no matter how busy or distracted we become.
 
Spending quality time with our loved ones and friends is always at the top of that list, yet so easily forgotten.
 
So Buffett’s IBM investment might not work out in the end. But as long as Buffett appears to be buying more and more of IBM’s earnings for less and less, it’s hard to call the investment a blunder.

为什么我们会记不住?

“行文八股,却词不达意。”
——英国作家W·H·Hudson《久远以前:我的早期生活史》
 
我的老友兼前同事刚刚庆祝完60岁生日。和20岁之后的每个整寿(30岁、40岁、50岁)相近,等你到了那个年纪,就会觉得60似乎是个很大的数字。毕竟,人人都惧怕衰老。
 
有人在朋友的Facebook上留言说:“现在是你此生最好的时光。”倘若我还是25岁或者35岁,我一定会认为他是满口胡言。但如今,我却由衷地表示赞同。
 
在中国文化中,60是个极其特殊的年龄,标志着经历过5个12年的轮回。年过60,你才会发现属于花甲之年的妙处。你可以不相信我,更何况如果你只有20多岁,也不太可能会相信我,但你等着瞧吧。(我说的妙处可不只是长者优惠那点儿事。)
过了60这道坎儿,我唯一想表示的遗憾就是还有很多事情都不能理解。孩提时代,我曾错到离谱地认为,大人——尤其是白发苍苍的老爷爷、老奶奶——都是无所不知,无所不晓的。
 
当然,随着年龄的增长,我们的身体会经历更多的健康和养生问题,记忆力也会遇到挑战。但同时,各类应对这些问题的工具也层出不穷。
 
想象一下你的智能手机、电脑和云空间存储的海量数据,还有即将推出的更多新工具,包括正在测试中、极有发展前途的治疗阿尔茨海默症的新药,以及花样繁多的先进诊疗技术。
 
很久以前,我曾在香港与某家《财富》500强公司的美国高管共进午餐。他比我年长许多,后来我们成了至交。他的夫人在与癌症长期斗争后离他而去。
 
那时,我大概30岁,还没有步入到亲朋好友因病离世常态化的阶段。我的这位大哥处世乐观,他说至少他挚爱的亡妻可以摆脱癌症的折磨。他还说,在所有疾病中,最为恐怖的是阿尔茨海默症,而不是非癌症。
 
年少无知的我对这种说法感到很新鲜。其实,他的本意并非是轻视癌症,而是说阿尔茨海默症会因为诸多原因而显得更为可怖。
 
后来,当我了解到重度阿尔茨海默症患者的更多遭遇,我开始理解他所说的话。身体康健却认不出、记不住自己的爱人,甚至找不到回家的路,这的确很恐怖——不仅对患者而言,对他们珍爱的人来说更是如此。当下,对阿尔茨海默症及附带的记忆丧失尚无有效的治疗手段,情势似乎窘迫而无望。
 
在记忆开始减退之前,我们总是轻易地认为它是理所当然的。
 
但根据我的经验,中国人不大可能这样,因为中国式教育极其重视机械学习。除了教育体系及教学法问题,根本没有其他方式可以像机械学习那样,让人掌握数千个汉字。
 
作为学习中文的外国人,我觉得它给我带来的一大好处就是,迫使我开发出训练有素的记忆力。在某种程度上,记忆力可以通过常规练习得以增强。
 
另一方面,背诵诗歌、中文单词、密码或其他“事”算一码事。
 
而唤醒过往的经历、偶遇、姓名、面孔、微笑、景象等长期记忆,又是另一码事。人类在这方面的记忆功能更像是个谜。
为什么某个特定的场景、声音或气味,会不时引发我们对某些早该忘记的经历的如潮回忆?
 
又为什么我们会时常忆起某些宁愿忘却的事,却遗忘了真正应该牢记的事?
 
有些记忆像强力胶一样粘着我们不放,而另一些却像糨糊一样稀松,很容易就会溶解、分散和消失。
 
对此,我们练就了各种应对技巧。我的一个办法就是罗列任务清单,完成某项任务后就把它划掉,直至新的清单产生。这个习惯不见得人人喜欢,但对我非常适用。
 
比较容易的部分是,要在清单中囊括所有必须要做的“事”。
 
但从长远来讲,更重要是找到无论多忙或多分心,都能记住该做的事情的方法。
 
和亲朋好友欢度宝贵的时光,这应该常居清单之首,但是这一点总是那么容易被我们忘记。


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