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The Blessing of Forgetting

Forgetting and learning are just two sides of the same coin: change.

Forgetting is just a form of change. If you can forget, you can change. If you can change, you can learn. I guess this must be what them experts call “neuroplasticity“. Or not. I don’t know. Not an expert here.

All I know is, forgetting means that you’re not static. You’re not set it stone. You’re in flux, in motion, constantly in motion, until you die — and even after that. Your mind, your body, your skills are fluid and mutable. While you’re alive, it’s up to you what you flow and mutate (?) them into; you have the power to choose. If you can forget Japanese, you can un-forget it, too. It cuts both ways. The trick is to simply run the process in reverse: do the opposite of whatever it is that makes you forget it.

The best way to forget Japanese is to not come into contact with it. It follows that the best way to not forget it is to…not not come into contact with it. 1

So don’t think of forgetting as your enemy. Don’t think of it as the opposite of learning but as merely a different form of learning. You don’t forget Japanese, you simply learn not-Japanese. You’re always learning. The only question is what.


  1. I know, rocket science, right? Next I’ll be telling you that the best way to get dry is not get wet. Wonders will never cease. Clearly, I’m not just Captain Obvious any more: I’m the Commander-in-Chief of the entire Obvious Armed Forces.

  6 comments for “The Blessing of Forgetting

  1. Carl
    March 22, 2013 at 09:51

    Ditto. Constant contact. (Just keep in contact with the thing.)

  2. ウイ好キー
    March 23, 2013 at 16:59

    Does remind a little of as Alan Watts put it: “A scholar tries to learn something everyday; a student of Buddhism tries to unlearn something daily.” I see very little difference in the plasticity involved in be it coming to walk again after a stroke, or coming to understand the world in a different language. Either way, you have to empty your cup before being able to fill it up with something new. 🙂

  3. March 24, 2013 at 23:55

    I think this advice could be filed under the category: Things that “go without saying” sometimes need to be said the most. Thanks for this motivating article 🙂

  4. March 28, 2013 at 07:53

    Hm an interesting post.defintely ,these things can placed under the category goes without saying as Strawberry Vibe mentioned 🙂

  5. epricq
    March 30, 2013 at 14:27

    On the same line, I find forgetting to be a useful tool when speaking in a foreign language. It’s tough and weird, but I try to forget my native language as much as possible so that I’m forced to think within the bounds of the words and concepts that I know in the foreign language. For example, I don’t know the words for “revolutionize” or “cancel” in the foreign language well enough to use them actively, but because I have “forgotten” the English terms for these concepts, I’m not tempted to try and say them in the foreign language (and sit there with a pained look on my face in the middle of the conversation).

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