Sherlock Holmes’ Brain-Attic


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In the BBC TV Show, Sherlock, we hear about Sherlock’s mind palace, which is a fascinating concept. However, the introduction of Sherlock Holmes was a little more ordinary in its word choice, if not in its content.

In A Study in Scarlet, the very first novel that introduced the world to Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Holmes speaks about his brain-attic:

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 skilful 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 the 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 of the useful ones.

Holmes of course makes a good point. I don’t know what the science has to say about brain plasticity, though of course it has been proven that humans use less than 10% of their brain capacity. The point is that we have limited time on this earth, and spend even less time being productive.

It makes sense then to not waste our brain power on stuff that we don’t need, or the stuff that doesn’t interest us. I am not talking about being a tunnel-visioned specialist. Whether you want to be a specialist, or a generalist, or anything in-between, you can still focus your energies and time in a way that makes your brain-attic full of useful rather than useless information. 

What do you think?

What is your brain-attic full of?