The Art of forgetting

coffee_comp“I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it. Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the perfect order. It is a mistake to think that that little room has elastic walls and can distend to any extent. Depend upon it there comes a time when for every addition of knowledge you forget something that you knew before. It is of the highest importance, therefore, not to have useless facts elbowing out the useful ones.”
– Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlet)

It is an Art to forget things deliberately. And the secret is not registering each and every piece of information in the brain. This is entirely different from not noticing – for example, the opening credits in a movie. We watch them roll past us but we don’t notice. Deliberate forgetting is the case where we actually respond to something for a while and then wipe it the moment we get past it. Personally I have practised this for years and have come to a point where I forget most of the “unimportant” things instantly. I could turn many of my actions and responses into regular habits so that I don’t need to think actively when doing those. But the trick that needs most practicing is recognising and filtering out the data which is “unimportant”. For example, I will forget the following as soon as they are over: the critical bug I am working on, my lunch/dinner food items, the big gossip going on in office, the name/rules of the home loan policy I discussed with the bank minutes back and the list goes on… For these cases I apply a simple rule – I can get these information back if required. Just knowing where I can get them is enough, like bookmarks! In some cases I have found that abstaining/showing lack of interest is another way to stay away from unwanted information, for example: share trading (personally I believe hard work is a better way to earn money than calculating the unpredictable whole day long).

To leave enough space for imagination and to think with a clear mind it is required to have control on the information we let enter our brains. In addition, keeping most relationship/acquaintance mumbo-jumbo, management politics at bay helps me live a happier life. Just at the cost of a little deception required to show the other end that I am paying attention.

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