What you’ve learned in the preceding article on association is a tiny part of the Link system of memory. We call it the “Link” system because what you’re doing when you apply it is linking one item to another, forming the links of a memory chain. One item must lead you to the next, if you’re associating properly.

Having applied the Link system, you can retain any list for as long as you like. It’s really hypothetical at the moment. When you start applying the Link for practical reasons, you’re memorizing a list of things because you intend to use that list. It’s the practical use that sets the retention—and provides the motivation to remember it in the first place. You’ll see that this is so just as soon as you learn to apply it practically.

Although there’s no reason why you should feel motivated to retain the list you memorized in the preceding article, you can if you want to. Simply go over it tomorrow; go over it mentally, that is, while you’re driving or eating or whatever. Go over it again three days later, then go over it a week later, and you’ll still know all the items in sequence. You’ll know them for as long as you want to know them.

The Link system is used to remember things in sequence only, and there are many things that must be remembered, or learned, in sequence. A speech is a sequence of thoughts, a formula is a sequence of components, any number with more than two digits is a sequence. (You can’t apply the Link system to numbers now because you don’t yet know how to picture numbers. Later, you’ll be using the Link to remember long-digit numbers.)

The one problem you may have in Linking, only at first, is in making your pictures ridiculous. There are four simple rules to help you do this right from the start. The easiest rule to apply is the rule of Substitution. That is, picture one item instead of the other. In the preceding article, we suggested that you might see a tree flying instead of an airplane. We were trying to force you to apply the rule of Substitution.

Another rule is Out of Proportion. Try to see the items larger than life. Check our suggestions again and you’ll see that we used the word “gigantic” quite often. This was to force you to apply the rule of Out of Proportion.

Another rule is Exaggeration. Whenever the word “millions” was used, it was to force you to apply this rule. Try to see “millions” of an item.

And, try to get Action into your pictures. Action is always easy to remember. One suggestion was to see millions (exaggeration) of earrings flying out of an envelope and hitting you in the face. Hitting you was the action.

Applying one or more of these rules to any picture will help you to make that picture ridiculous. After a short while, you won’t have to think about applying them; you’ll do it automatically.

It does take some imagination to form ridiculous pictures in your mind. It’s unfortunate that those “wheels” of imagination, observation, curiosity, enthusiasm, etc., that turned so quickly and smoothly when we were young have slowed down by the time we’re adults. Society tends to do that, somehow. Children never have any problem forming silly or ridiculous pictures. They do it easily and naturally.

You’ll and that our systems will start turning those wheels again; perhaps slowly at first, but turning nevertheless. Your imagination needs exercise, that’s all. The important point is that simply trying to apply our systems will automatically give you that exercise. Your imagination must improve, as will your powers of observation, as you keep working with the systems. In a short while, you’ll and that it will be the ridiculous, illogical picture that first comes to mind whenever you think of any two items.

Making the pictures ridiculous is what enables you to really see them; a logical picture is usually too vague. Once you really see the ridiculous picture, it does register in your mind. Research carried out by the department of basic and visual science at the Southern California College of Optometry indicates that when you actually see something, an electrical impulse reaches the vision center of the brain. They’ve also discovered (rediscovered scientifically, really, since ancient philosophers said the same thing) that there is not much physiological difference between the electrical signals that are activated by the mind’s eye and ones that are activated by the eye itself.

So don’t feel bad if, at first, you have to apply some effort in order to come up with those ridiculous pictures—at least, to come up with them quickly. That extra effort at first is good. It forces you to be Originally Aware.

We can’t say it any better than it was said on parchment, in the scrolls called Ad Herennium, over three thousand years ago:

Now nature herself teaches us what to do. When we see in everyday life things that are petty, ordinary, and banal, we generally fail to remember them, because the mind is not being stirred by anything novel or marvelous. But if we see or hear something exceptionally base, dishonorable, unusual, great, unbelievable, or ridiculous, that we are likely to remember for a long time. Accordingly, things immediate to our eye or ear we commonly forget; incidents of our childhood we often remember best. Nor could this be so for any other reason than that ordinary things easily slip from the memory while the striking and the novel stay longer in the mind.

Again, the idea, or the realization, is not new; it has just been neglected, or overlooked. Be sure, then, to make all your pictures ridiculous ones. In that way, and again from Ad Herennium, “Art will supplement nature.” That’s exactly what happens. When something assaults our senses in an unusual, great, unbelievable, or ridiculous way, it “stirs” the mind. It is usually retained without effort. It is the ordinary, everyday things that we have trouble remembering. Forming ridiculous pictures helps to make them outstanding, novel, or marvelous. The art (of trained memory) is supplementing nature, and all our systems are based on this fact.

If you can apply the Link and memorize ten items, then you can use it to remember twenty or thirty items. Of course, it will take more time to remember thirty items than it will to remember ten. But that would be so whether you applied the Link system or not. There is really no limit to the number of items you can memorize this way.

We strongly suggest that before you continue to the next technique you try a Link on your own. Have someone give you fifteen or so items, and you form the Link. Or try it on your own. Make a list of items, and then Link them. After you’ve practiced awhile, when you feel fairly confident, show off for a friend.

When he’s called the fifteen or sixteen items, you call them right back to him, by memory. If you miss one or two, there’s no problem. Simply ask him what they are, strengthen that particular association, and then call off the items backward!

And how will you be sure to remember the first item called? Well, once you start using the Link for practical purposes, that won’t be a problem. The subject you’re memorizing will start your Link.

But even for now the problem is really a hypothetical one. If you think of any item near the start of your Link and work backward, you must eventually come to the first item. And, to save you even this small amount of time: When your friend calls the first item, just associate it—to him.

Take the list in the preceding article. If your friend called “airplane” as the first item, you might look at him and see an airplane on his head. That’s all it takes. The next item is associated to airplane, and so on to the end of the Link.

When you’re ready to call on the list of items, simply look at your friend. You’ll “see” the airplane on his head, and that association will lead you through the rest of the list.

Again, we suggest that you try a few test Links before continuing. Show off for your friends, or make your own list and show off to yourself. We suggest showing off only because we know that each time you do, you’ll gain confidence. You’ll see that the system works!