There’s a retired lab technician named EP, who in the book Moonwalking with Einstein, is referred to as “the most forgetful man in the world.” EP suffered from one of the most severe cases of amnesia ever documented; his memory extended back only as far as his most recent thought. Questions like, “What did you have for dinner” or “Who is the President?” were lost on him. In fact, his amnesia was so bad that when asked about the reflection he saw in the tinted windows of a car he passed by, he responds, “An old man . . . that is all.”
There’s something interesting about this story, however. EP regularly went on walks around his neighborhood, and despite not being able to remember his own house or the streets in his neighborhood, he’d take the exact same route every time. He couldn’t write down his own address, recognize his neighbors, or even tell you what he was doing—but he repeated the same route and unknowingly found himself returning home every time.
Sometimes there are things that we work hard to learn. We take notes, study, memorize, highlight, and do whatever we can to cram as much information into our heads. We study for the test only to later find out what we managed to remember (or forget).
Other times we remember things that we didn’t even know we ever learned. When’s the last time your teenager had to recall the mechanics of bike riding before hoping on a bike? When’s the last time your toddler had to search the depths of his memory to know what folder you keep his apps in? Or the last time your third-grader had to concentrate at what makes a circle a circle?