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The faintest ink lasts longer than the best memory.

– Chinese Proverb

No real deep thinking required here …

Write. It. Down.

Could be my shortest post ever!

But nooooo …


There’s one particularly curious aspect of this at-first-glance straightforward proverb that interests me.

My pondering is provoked by “faintest” …

The faintest ink lasts longer than the best memory.

Now I guess the author could have used that adjective simply to highlight the contrast; to make the “write it down” point with emphasis.  Even the faintest ink is better than the best memory!

But that just doesn’t seem so, because, like memory, doesn’t ink fade?  And if the ink is faint on the page, wouldn’t that suggest a quicker fade?  And doesn’t that raise doubts about being better than the best memory?

It does.  Of course it does.

But here’s the holy cow! of this quote.

I don’t think it’s about the ink.

It’s about the act of writing.  It’s about what happens to us when we go about writing something down.

When we write something down, we move that notion or idea or whatever from our brain into our world.  We make it available to our senses to experience.  We can now see it … we might even hear it as we write it … and there are now wide-ranging synapses firing in our brain, with neurons capturing that notion and storing it in multiple places in our brain  … It can now be evoked by seeing something similar or related … it can now be accessed by hearing something similar or related …

*     *     *     *     *

I know I know I know that I need to write things down.  Leaving it to memory is a fool’s game for me.  I’m the fool.  It’s foolish to think that I will remember.  I don’t have the best memory…

But I have a way better one when I write. things. down.

And it is very odd, because, even in the act of writing something down, I know that it is not so much about being able to find that piece of paper in the future.  It is about stimulating those synapses and filling up those neurons!

And that’s why I need to not just think it.

I need to ink it.

Go here for a deep dive into neurons, synapses, and the mechanics of memory.