It’s Saturday: So the Brain is like an Attic, Sherlock?

Not sure they have attics... (Naomi's Photos)
Not sure they have attics… (Naomi’s Photos)

The past year has been an extremely hectic one for me (good things, no worries!). Large quantities of new information of different types landed on my brain’s “doorstep” and moved in.

Their arrival seems to have displaced information I used to have at my disposal and I seem to have less room for taking in new information (I forget things I was recently told!).

One memory has surfaced quite clearly though. In fact, it is demanding my attention quite frequently. There is a question to be answered:

Was Sherlock Holmes (or rather Conan Doyle) right about the brain being like an attic after all? 

The claim was made, in “A Study in Scarlet” which I believe was the very first story about Holmes, published in 1887. Dr. Watson had just expressed shock that Holmes didn’t know something about the solar system, possibly that the earth rotates around the sun. I read the story years ago yet Holmes’ reaction stuck in my mind more than the actual plot of the story.

Here’s the quote. What do you think?

“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 skillful 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 most 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.”



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