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Master of memory shares his secrets

Mar 26,2007
Eran Katz Provided by the Israeli Embassy
Eran Katz, a world record holder for memorizing a 500-digit number after hearing it only once, said enthusiasm and undying curiosity are the key factors to developing a sharp memory and boosting intelligence.
“Why are our brains not working as they used to? It’s because we live in a world today that is lazy and comfortable,” Mr. Katz said, showing a picture of a fitness center in the United States that had escalators on both sides of a staircase of about 10 stairs.
The Guinness record holder said people today pay little attention to detail. In our laziness, our brains lose their sharpness, he said.
Invited by the Embassy of Israel to Korea, Mr. Katz gave a lecture, “The Secret to the Jewish Brain Boosting System,” at the Korea Foundation Cultural Center in Seoul. He noted that Jewish people have placed emphasized education as a means of survival against aggressors throughout history. It was in ancient times that the Jews realized the most powerful tool is a creative imagination.
“The principle of survival is to never feel comfortable,” Mr. Katz said.
He added that it has been scientifically proven that standing up helps stimulate the brain. Students in ancient Jewish schools, when feeling bored and hardly interested, would stand up and talk about an issue as if it were the most interesting subject in the world, he said. He even suggested holding business meetings not in the usual meeting room but somewhere outside. “Change the environment,” Mr. Katz suggested.
The same goes for students studying for an examination.
Mr. Katz asked the audience to give out random numbers from 0 to 9, which he wrote down on a whiteboard. He then memorized the 32 numbers after hearing them once. Mr. Katz impressed the crowd by saying the numbers out loud and then saying them backwards.
“I’m not a genius and I have no photogenic memory,” Mr. Katz said.
Instead, he said he was able to memorize the numbers using an ancient Jewish method.
Mr. Katz said he assigns a letter value to each number. For example, the number one becomes the letter “T,” the number two becomes “N” and the number three, the letter “M.” Then he puts vowels between the letters to form words. If the numbers are one and two, which are “T” and “N” in letters, he would place an “I,” or an “E” in between them. The number sequence would then be the word, “Tin,” or “Ten.”
“We remember what interests us,” Mr. Katz said. “People who remember the names of people they meet are generally people who genuinely like people, and people who are good at remembering license plates or phone numbers are good at math.”
Mr. Katz said many senior citizens who listen to his lectures tell him that they could remember everything they experienced when they were very young, while their memories fail when it comes to remembering what they did a day ago or the author of the book they are currently reading.
“This is because when we were young everything was interesting. Everything was new. But once we grow up we know everything. We have seen everything, and we are tired of everything. Nothing interests us any longer,” Mr. Katz said. “We lack enthusiasm.”
Mr. Katz said nothing in the world should be taken for granted. Always ask and think. To improve intelligence, students should always remain curious. He advises people not to take anything at face value. “Use your instinct and decide what is right and wrong,” he said.
Mr. Katz said many of us think we can only be good at one skill, but in fact any one can be talented in multiple areas. “We are afraid to try because we think we have to reach a certain level. Feel the fear and do it anyhow.”


By Lee Ho-jeong Staff Writer [ojlee82@joongang.co.kr]



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