A memory-catching pensieve for Muggles

My wife and I had the pleasure of watching Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the other day. We were disappointed by a couple of the previous films in the series, but this latest installment on DVD redeemed the franchise for us.

During the movie, Harry has the opportunity once again to use a pensieve to peek into the memories of Albus Dumbledore, his mentor and the longstanding headmaster of the Hogwarts school. If you’re not familiar with the Potter world of magic, the Potter wiki aptly describes it thusly:

The Pensieve is an object used to review memories. It has the appearance of a shallow stone basin, into which are carved runes and strange symbols. It is filled with a silvery substance that appears to be a cloud-like liquid/gas; the collected memories of people who have siphoned their recollections into it. Memories can then be viewed from a third-person point of view.

Seeing Harry experience Dumbledore’s memories made me wish for the ability to chronicle and review my own memories weeks, months, and years into the future and be able to share them with others.

Then it hit me: I do have this capability… and you’re looking at it!

My blogs, both personal and professional – combined with my Facebook and Twitter posts – form what is essentially my own pensieve. I can search back through thoughts, experiences, and resources (that I’ve linked to) with relative ease. I can also share my posts with others, allowing them to peek into my thoughts whenever the need arises. While not nearly as easy to create (to deposit a memory into the pensieve requires a flick of a wand whereas writing even a post as short as this requires a non-insignificant amount of time.

In addition to retrieval, however, the pensieve is often used by Dumbledore to “relieve the mind when it becomes cluttered with information.” (Wikipedia entry). I subscribe to the Getting Things Done (free resources) approach to productivity created by David Allen. One of Allen’s key tenets is to write tasks down rather than trying to keep them in your head. This frees up your mental space for working on problems rather than trying to remember what you needed to do next. I use tweets and draft blog posts towards this purpose: to capture my thoughts in a searchable record before I forget them.

Some may argue that a two-dimensional written record is not the same as an immersive 3D world where you can review details about a memory (that you might not even have noticed the first time around), and you’d be right. But until we can download our memories – perhaps even by using a fiber optic braid like the Na’vi – social media is a much better repository than my own faulty synapses for recalling my memories.


  1. thisisjohnny · January 11, 2010

    i have to say i agree with you whole-heartedly.

    when i was laid-off in 2008, i kind of stopped blogging because my source of inspiration had been taken away from me. but when i got back on the proverbial horse, i went back and read through some of my old posts and i could vividly remember writing them. some i was kind of embarrassed about writing, others i was pretty proud of and retweeted them. they were lessons i had forgotten. some of them were lessons that i had needed.

    the blog is a great time machine!


  2. mrmerlot · January 12, 2010

    Thanks for the comment, John! Like you, I occasionally review past blogs I’ve written and yes, it can be embarrassing. But as I tell people in the blogs class I teach, you must have (or develop) a thick skin to blog well. If you let your ego or pride get in the way, you either won’t publish anything or, when people leave negative comments, you’ll retreat (or explode). You’re sharing not only insights and opinions, but exposing how well you write, analyze, etc. It’s can be scary, but I’ve found the rewards far outweigh the potential costs.


  3. Wizards Wand · October 15, 2010

    Numerous followers check out King’s Cross station to take photos of platforms 9 and 10 that the station management erected a sign that reads “Platform 9 ¾”


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