208-237-5985. That was the phone number of one of my best guy friends in Junior High School. 208-237-2845. That was the phone number of my best girlfriend in my 8th and 9th grade years of school. 614-488-1181. That was the phone number of my dad’s pool installment company, Foxx Pools when I was 6 and 7 years old. My address during my last 2 years in high school—some nearly 30 years ago, was 620 Vancouver Drive in Westerville, Ohio. At any given time I had more than 100 phone numbers and addresses memorized growing up and in spite of having difficulty remembering what I had for breakfast today, I can still remember the majority of those numbers that I memorized. Like many of you reading this, I grew up in a time of phone books, and “expensive” 4-1-1 calls combined with the lack of accessible computers, let alone internet. Today, there are long-time married couples that don’t even know each others’ cell phone numbers as well as full-grown adults who have no clue what their social security number is. Clearly we’re relying on our contact lists in our cell phones or the internet to give us most of that information today, and at rapid speed thanks to all that technology offers us today. It seems odd to think that “memorization” of this kind of information is rather antiquated today, doesn’t it? But such practices brings with it some terrible consequences.
Memorizing phone numbers, addresses, travel routes, etc. Yep, those were the days. It was how we got around in a world full of various identification numbers, credit card numbers, account numbers, addresses, and phone numbers. It was a way of life, an essential part of life even. In fact, when my brother and his wife would host parties, my brother would display the memorization brilliance of my sister-in-law by having guests ask the exact location, including aisle and North/South/East or West coordinates of any food item that they could name at their local Kroger’s grocery store. Even with a Norwegian language barrier and being wholly unfamiliar with all of what the U.S. grocery stores had to offer, she would correctly identify any item that was thrown at her. Memorization was how I got straight A’s in school and learned all of the books in the Bible well enough to become the “regional scripture chase champion” in seminary. Nowadays though, there are a million ways to cheat on tests thanks to the deliverance of wireless electricity and all things “techno”. Who needs to memorize which books are in which scriptures when you can type what you’re looking for faster than you can look at any Table of Contents? 25 years ago, if a guy didn’t call me, I could actually believe the whole “I lost your number” excuse. But today, one barely needs a first OR last name, or even just a photo, and they can either stalk you, or they can make use of social media, e-mail, texts, twitter, 4 different phone numbers, and even a virtual assistant to avoid you—all thanks to the plethora of technological advances that have occurred over the past 15 years. But these so-called conveniences are rarely discussed in the preparedness/homesteading/do-it-yourself/survivalist communities as the weakness that they are, and I believe, such an oversight can literally lead to certain physical or emotional suffering, and perhaps even death.
Mental Preparedness, the 2nd Principle of Preparedness, most certainly requires the active use of memorization skills because nearly every serious crisis scenario will bring with it insurmountable obstacles preventing us from accessing our cell phones, computers and electronics.
The majority of major crisis scenarios that we prepare for will require our Mental Preparedness to be in tip-top shape—100% reliable—because the need for memorization is an integral part of success of the countless plans that we’ll have to employ to be safe, well-informed, capable, and accurate in the midst of a full-blown crisis. Many people don’t realize just how broad the scope is in which we’ll find ourselves in situations that will require us to just plain KNOW what we need to know. I’m not just talking about phone numbers here. (After all, will phone numbers be useful if our cell phones don’t work anyway? Landlines are on their way to making the “extinction” list, aren’t they? While I advise folks who have at least a bare bones landline in their homes, what good will that do if no one else knows the phone number by heart?) Without a GPS system, how will we fare in evacuating our homes and getting somewhere else? Perhaps you have all of the ingredients for making bread, and you’ve even done it a few times, but what good will those ingredients do if you don’t have the process and recipe fully memorized? You planned on going to your Aunt Melody’s home as a back-up plan in a crisis, but have you memorized the route of how to get there on foot without traveling through dangerous areas? Not only will you need to memorize the location of your alternative shelter options, but you’ll need to remember which routes to take to get there, as well as back-up options. The use of Morse Code is a viable communication solution, but can you do it without a reference book? Having placed essentials in some out of the way caches is a great “ultimate preparedness” effort, but can you get to those caches without a GPS or road map? The good-old-fashioned code that you’ve created with your community of fellow-preppers is a fabulous plan, but only if you can remember the code by heart.
I may be perfectly prepped mentally to know where to go for safety, but my biggest nightmare scenario is “what if my young niece got stranded at school? Would she be able to make her way to our determined meeting place amidst a crisis? Has she been quizzed on the protocol sufficiently? Will she be able to remember that information when she’s scared and alone?” What if she’s ever kidnapped on her way home from school one day, but she’s able to escape without her cell phone, does she have important contact information memorized so that she can make a phone call to local authorities or her parents? Let’s take this a step further… Let’s say there’s a massive earthquake which takes the lives of her parents. What good does it do her to know that Aunt K’s is the best place to go if she doesn’t know how to get there on her own? Does she have the phone numbers memorized that she’ll be able to call, including local authorities?
Having dozens of physical medicine books won’t do us any good if we have to leave them behind in a hasty relocation scenario. The memorization of important information and processes will need to be firmly rehearsed and scripted in our mind in order to be useful in an emergency situation. Many people don’t realize that the brain’s natural response to a horrific trauma is to “freeze” while it’s searching all of its hard drive information. But in a crisis, we may not have the luxury of waiting for our brain to search and search. We’ve got to learn these essential bits of information so that they will be at our beck and call as needed.
So, how do you make sure you and your family has the proper mental database that they need to be safe and sound? Here are some of my memorization tips. First of all, repetition is king in the world of memorization. I can still remember the cadence and tone of voice that my mom used when making all of us kids recite over and over again my Dad’s work number. And that’s part of the success of it. Cadence, tone, pitch can help us remember numbers. When it comes to phone numbers or security access codes, patterns on the phone or access key pad can help us remember them better. For example, I remember my guy friend’s number from junior high because “5985” was a triangle shape when dialing. When it comes to giving yourself a leg up in successfully making the recipes you’ve adapted, repetition is great, but what if you’re sick and unable to do the preparation? It’s because of this reason that I tape the recipe card on the INSIDE of the lid on the bucket that holds all of my ingredients for a particular meal. (See “The Magic Number 12” article for more on that method.) When it comes to learning all of the natural medicine facts and skills, I use flash cards. I’m a BIG proponent of flash cards. I use them to memorize scriptures, quotes, factoids, etc. simply by writing the question on one side and the answer on the other side. Each day I have a ritual of spending 10 minutes or so reviewing the flash cards that I’ve created. And I’ll typically spend this ten minutes with each group of flash cards. For example, in the morning I do my scripture flash cards. During my lunch time, I review my “nutritional certification” flash cards. At nighttime I review what I call my “fun flashcards”—they’re fun for me because they deal with the various facts I need to know about recognizing edible and medicinal plants. Sometimes I do the flashcards in reverse too, meaning that I look at the answer and have to come up with the question.
I can’t say enough about the virtue in physically rehearsing what it is I’m trying to learn. It’s one thing to READ about how to use my solar oven, but it can’t compare to what I learn by actually USING my solar oven.
When I was studying to pass my health and life insurance license exams, I would use a small tape recorder and I would ask a question and then leave just enough room of silence for me to answer the question precisely. I’d listen to this recording while I was driving or soaking in the bath tub. I had no problem ace-ing the license exams.
Another strategy I use sometimes is to write what I’m trying to learn on a post-it note and put it on my mirror to look at while I’m getting ready each day. As for my niece? Well, I came up with a quirky little jingle to help her remember key things to do in a crisis. She’s not scared of it. She’s got the info down pat, and she hasn’t messed up in answering my quizzes on that particular topic ever since I taught her the little song.
We’re just going to have to prepare NOW to use the noggin that the good Lord blessed us with! Memorization skills today can literally mean the difference between life and death in the face of a crisis in today’s world because all that we rely upon now, in order to access that information, is supported by electricity and high-speed lines of communication. But a mere 60 seconds of the wrong kind of weather, political uprising, solar flares, or an EMP attack can eliminate all of those electronic and high-tech communication resources that we presently rely on.
You’ll find that today’s advertisements focus less on catchy phone numbers and instead on words instead of phone numbers, or URLs, e-mails, hashtags, and unforgettable names in order to get you to contact them for their services.
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