Human Perfection and the Law of Forgetting

Published on by Vincent Ragay under
Taking a Math Text Test

Taking a Math Text Test

Learning logarithms used to be such a challenge back in my school days, ages ago. And it is not that different for teenagers nowadays. I proved that last weekend when I gave a surprise “text test” to my Math-class students to find out if they had retained anything from the previous lesson on the Properties of Logarithms.

Since my students are so attached to their phones, I let them take the short test using their phones and to text-in their answers right in class, offering them one peso each to pay for their message-sending. Most of them did not have load and so all of them just showed me their answers on their phones. That also gave me the excuse to “confiscate” all their phones for the rest of the time in class! Unless you think ahead of these kids, they will run around you.

Well, as I had expected, everyone failed miserably – me included, as the teacher. I then proceeded to give them memory aids to remember the Properties of Logarithms and, after that, they could rattle off all four properties with ease. I redeemed myself as a teacher! I am quite sure that if I give the test again, all of them will pass even after a year.

The “text test” was not graded, but only given to bring out a lesson on remembering and learning, in general. In this case, giving them tools to help them recall things will reduce the chances of unlearning or forgetting.

You see, I had told them the secret of studying for any subject, which I had proven many times among my former tutorial students. The secret is to listen to the lecture and grasp as much as you can and not take notes. If you understand, say 80% of the lesson, write that down immediately. Whatever is missing (20% or so), ask from the teacher, from others or read from a book. Write down what is missing to get 100% coverage of the lesson in your notebook and, more importantly, in your mind. My Math students all got zeroes because they had even forgotten the trick I had taught them! That is the worst that can happen to students.

So, here’s how it works. What you learned from listening (a habit you will want to keep and use effectively throughout life) will diminish or dwindle as time passes by. So, your 80% might go down to 60% or less by the following week (assuming you did nothing to improve your memory or understanding). In case the teacher gives a surprise test, you will fail. A few, the A-students, may retain 80% or more and do well. Most will not. This is the basis for the Law of Forgetting.

But if you have a 100% understanding, or less, and you take a test, you will do well. The important thing is to get that 100% back from your notes. Or should we say, fill up the missing 40% by reading your notes or books? Notes are better because you remember your own writing and the circumstances when you wrote your notes, aiding or strengthening your memory.

In short, overcome the Law of Forgetting by bringing back what you ought to know or understand by refreshing your memory constantly or right before an exam. Hence, your 60% will go up to 95 to 100% when you review the night before the test. In the morning, most people will have 80 to 90% remaining (the cruel law at work again). So, right before the test, review your notes and – voila – 100% and ready for the test. Of course, the actual test might end up challenging your understanding and how you need to apply that knowledge to particular problems. As long as you retain 90% or so of what you know, the mind will come to your aid in handling application problems, especially in Math.

Now, the mathematical Law of Forgetting specifically states that the performance level of a certain task, as represented by Po, is influenced by the passage of time, t, according to the following equation, where c is a constant and P is the performance level at the end of t months:

P = Po/(t + 1)

For instance, a student who gets 85% in a test given right after a class lecture, will be expected to get a grade of P, after t =3 months and given c as 0.2, equal to:

P = 85/(3 +1)0.2 = 64.4%

Fair enough! No notes and no review might just give you that grade. But all of my previous “lagging” students who had applied the trick mentioned passed their crucial tests just when they needed to. The trick works, I am happy to say!

But this principle applies to life as well, whether we are talking about studying music or martial arts. Or, even eternal truths. Pianists have their etudes and karate masters have their katas to refresh their basic skills. Christians need to go back from Genesis to Revelation and all over again, every now and then.

When Christ taught, He made sure that what He said would not be forgotten. Now, you might think that this has nothing to do with Math; however, you will see just how consistent it is with what we have said above. His initial method was not teaching the disciples to take down literal notes but to listen and to observe. He spoke and they heard. He showed and they saw. He taught and they learned. That’s it!

But Jesus knew the disciples will forget. For sure! It is a law of life. The Hebrews forgot the ten plagues and the miracles and rebelled in the desert. The Jews forgot their mighty God and turned to useless idols. The prophets were teachers sent to give the people ways of remembering God’s word and returning to Him when they forgot Him.

Eventually, God, through Moses, gave the Decalogue and the laws in written form. Previous to that, almost everything was preserved in oral tradition; although Enoch wrote a book and Noah kept a log of his journey (how else would Moses have known about the Flood?). God had, in essence, used a method which was fail-proof. He relied on the basic understanding of people to remember His good works – from Adam to Noah to Abraham and to David.

The spoken or written word was sufficient to teach as long as it remained pure and uncorrupted by human ideas. 100% understanding and recall of God’s basic laws was required of God’s people for them to receive His blessings. The Jews had so many tricks to help them recall the literal word – phylacteries on their foreheads and arms, the synagogues where the scriptures were read and discussed, psalms to help them remember the prophets’ messages, yearly feasts to commemorate (not just as joyful holidays but as “memos” of God’s mighty deeds and provisions) and ubiquitous Nature to show them God also spoke in physical creation.

God could not be faulted for not speaking or not teaching His children – righteous or rebellious. We have no excuse. Like students, our failure is in not learning enough or in forgetting the lessons we learned in the beginning.

And so, Christ provided the way for the apostles to recall His teachings to a 100-percent-level by giving the Holy Spirit Whom God had also sent to the prophets of old. Same old trick for the same old sins of the world! This time though, He gave the Spirit not just to prophets and kings but to all those who believed.

Yes, Jesus knew the apostles will have no way to recall everything He had said and done. And since He was leaving them, they would be like helpless kids without a guide or mentor. They would not have even understood why He had to die; that is why they all fled when He was arrested. Thus, the Holy Spirit brought back 100% recollection of the “words” and gave 100% understanding of the “meanings” of those words. This knowledge in the beginning is the same knowledge John is talking about in I John 2:20-27. Only the Holy Spirit can give that, no human or angel can.

What is written down today in the New Testament, which had been previously passed on verbally (or in letter form in the case of the letters), is inspired or “breathed” by the Holy Spirit as an error-less and truthful recording of Christ’s teachings. We need no other teacher, as John further says, because the Holy Spirit Who is given to each believer, will bring 100% understanding when we read His message from what is written.

The Bible is God’s truth “noted down” by the disciples for our learning. What is written is God’s word in its entirety for perfection of human understanding (100%, no less). And so, John wrote those words exactly to warn the believers against those who were trying to deceive them. Deceivers – and there are so many of them — are also teachers; and they teach to divert and to cause people to forget the original truth.

But the Law of Forgetting (also the Law of Deception which caused Eve and Adam to sin by forgetting their first lesson from God – “Do not eat!”) is virtually erased or turned into a Law of Learning (or the Law of Truth) by the Holy Spirit by effectively assigning a value of zero for the constant c in our equation, giving us a denominator of 1 (anything raised to zero equals one) and setting P = Po! And so, what we know from the beginning is what we know in the end, as John taught. No forgetting! No deception! Complete recall! Complete understanding! People or preachers then who say perfect knowledge is impossible to acquire in this life deny the power of the Holy Spirit. Why would God even command us to be perfect if that were true?

Please read the rest of John’s letter and find out for yourself that there is more to perfection than just perfect knowledge; because I do not need to teach you since you already know the proven trick to spiritual learning and understanding.

Moreover, we need no gadgets or technology to fully know God and His word. We already have a mind. And with the Spirit empowering that mind, we can be the best students, teachers and workers of the kingdom Christ established. Paul could even tell the Corinthian believers that “we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor. 2:16). Anytime a testing or an obstacle comes along the way of life, we will be ready to take the challenge triumphantly. Why? Because we are powerful? Because we are so smart? No, because the enemy is powerless before our King and Champion! Because the enemy is foolish enough to stand against the Army of the Lord destined to conquer all the rulers who dare resist His might!

The Lord wants us to become victors with Him. The enemy wants us to fail with him – and he knows his final dark destiny is coming soon. Why would anybody choose to follow Satan’s crooked path?

The lesson is clear enough. If it is still fuzzy or incredible, it is time you got yourself a much better teacher. And there is only One Teacher we truly need. And there is no lie in Him. Do you remember Who? Or why?

Text me the answer or test yourself and see where you stand now – before the final dreadful test comes.

And here’s a peso for your text!

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