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Immerse: Poets - Week 13

There’s a Song for That

For someone who did reasonably well at school, I’m really bad at tasks which involve memorization. That’s not to say I can’t remember things; I just can’t remember certain things consistently. When I was in school, it meant figuring out a lot of workarounds if I was going to be successful. One of those tricks was becoming a master at mnemonics. A lot of teachers would use acronyms to help us learn like ROY G BIV for color order or Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally for the order of operations in math class. Those are classic examples, but I was a little bit extra. Those would often work, but there were times I’d even forget those. What worked best for me was turning everything into a song. I could read a sentence or string of facts and would instantly hear a song in my head. Sometimes it was the words themselves which seemed familiar, but more often than not, it was the rhythm of the syllables which would trigger my association. This technique didn’t make sense to anyone else but me. One crazy example was in college when I really wanted to learn how to say the alphabet backwards. I started by writing the letters out on paper and reading them out loud. When I read the letters in reverse all I could hear was the theme song to Gilligan’s Island. After that it took me 3 minutes to master, and I can still show off that useless talent today. While I can’t really explain why my brain works this way, I can tell you the majority of things I remember from school are part of a soundtrack. It’s the same trick I use to memorize scripture (which has also been especially difficult for me).

I truly believe music is one of the best things God has gifted us with. It can be used in so many different ways. It has this wonderful ability of tying emotions to the written word – the same emotions which play a huge role in memory formation. There have been many studies about why our memories are so much stronger when they are connected to strong feelings. It’s why we can remember exactly where we were on September 11, 2001 but no idea what we may have been doing on September 10, 2001. When I read the Psalms, I can personally feel those emotions being written about. I don’t have to actually hear the melody in order to feel its existence. There is a passion which comes across so much more clearly than in other parts of the Bible. You feel as if you’re right there experiencing the same thing. A lot of those passages are about praising God and His attributes. Depending on the translation, the word “praise” is used roughly between 200-350 times in the Bible, and most of them are in the Psalms. So when this week’s Immerse: Poets reading (Week 13, day 5) ends with “Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord.” I didn’t just read the words. I sang them in my head just like we practiced in choir. If you were in choir with me that year, you probably sang it, too. That’s the magic of music. If we’ve forgotten the words, there’s a song out there to help us, and there’s no  better place to get those words than Scripture.