O memory! Thou fond deceiver!
Goldsmith has a point: the memory can deceive, and often does. But we also decide ourselves about our memory. How often have you heard, or indeed said, something like:
'You are lucky, having a good memory.'
'It's not fair: I can't remember half of what I need to.'
Luck has nothing to do with it. If your memory is poor, then it's not 'unfair': it's your fault. Happily, and more to the point, you can do something about it.
Of all the myths that surround Memory, the most damaging is that it is a gift. That is quite untrue. Memory is a skill; and like any skill its performance depends on application, on practice, and on regular training. Everyone potentially has a first-class memory; and everyone can train their memory, and thereby improve their efficiency.
Another fallacy that should be exploded here and now is the idea that there is a close connection between memory and intelligence. This myth is probably fuelled by the popularity of otherwise harmless and enjoyable programmes such as Mastermind and Brain of Britain, whose titles suggest mat the ability to remember masses of unrelated facts denotes great intellectual prowess. In fact, all the research conducted so far indicates that memory and intelligence are separate faculties; and if you think about this for a moment, you'll see why. The difference can be dearly expressed by way of two definitions:
Memory: The ability to remember what you know.
Intelligence: The ability to work out what to do when you don't know what to do.
In short, memory is to do with recalling and using things you are certain of, while intelligence reveals itself most acutely when addressed to things you are uncertain of, or ignorant about.