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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Power Of Habit

John Henderson was much admired in the latter half of the eighteenth century for his incredible memory. His skills were tested by a Professor Dugold Stewart. In his presence, Henderson took up a newspaper, and after reading it once, repeated each portion of it by heart. Professor Stewart was amazed. Henderson said modestly: "If you had been like me - obliged to depend during many years for your daily bread on getting words by heart, you would not be so astonished at habit having produced this facility."


  1. The 18th century was still a time when birth control was unneccessary, because children died very often, and most people were living only for a short time. Enlightenment was growing in a cage of decorous rules and democracy was considered a mock racy cracy, but there was also an easyness which has got lost. And the sociologistic grid patterns which today especially in northern countries have become an obstacle to the experience of astonishment didn't exist. Maybe today one would search and even find some specific deficiency in Henderson's daily life and try to correlate it with his faculties. Today much more people can read and write, but in Henderson's time there was a deeply felt awe in front of the blossoming of talents which would always open a way for any rare talent and today has become as unexistent as the adoption of an adult person.

    Apart from that Henderson's understatement is very charming, and we should remember it: the effect of constant exercise can really seem miraculous.

  2. What is the repetition by heart of a newspaper? Each 10 years old child learning playing piano is able to reproduce 10.000 notes after a rehearsal of 10 minutes. Approximately.

  3. @cs

    Very interesting. Tell us more please.