Usually, typography focuses on making text easy to read. But this new font makes reading just difficult enough so we have slows down to process more deeply what is being read.
The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University has developed a font that their scientists claim will help with memory: Sans Forgetica. It works on the principle of “desirable difficulty.” Usually typography focuses on making text easy to read. But this font makes reading just difficult enough so the reader slows down to process more deeply what is being read. At least that’s the theory.
Here is an edition of the Dhammapada that makes use of this unusual font. Try it out and see what you think. Often when a text like the Dhammapada is so familiar to us, it is easy to move too quickly through the verses. Share your experience reading in the comments.
Kindle: Sans Forgetica Dhammapada by Acharya Buddharakkhita
If you have the latest firmware on your Kindle reader, you can now load your own fonts. Just look for the /fonts/ folder and follow the instructions in the readme file. Most other e-ink readers have had this feature for some time. You can download Sans-Forgetica from the RMIT.
Buddhist scripture have been recited aloud since the time of the Buddha. In fact, without this recitation, usually as a group, we wouldn’t have the suttas with us today. You can continue this tradition by reading the suttas aloud.
Even though we don’t need to recite out loud to preserve the teachings for future generations, it is still a great practice.
Reading suttas aloud has many benefits:
If we are tired, reading out loud can help us wake up
If the mind is really distracted, it can help calm and focus the mind.
By reading aloud, we can process them through hearing as well as seeing.
Don’t worry about pronouncing all of the Pali words correctly. Sound them out the best you can, but don’t let incorrect pronunciation hold you back.
You don’t need to read the whole sutta out loud. If there is part of the sutta that doesn’t make sense, try reading that part aloud till you can track what is being said.
Sometimes repetitions start to blend together. By reading them out loud, the differences will pop out.
Over the last few years there has been an emerging practice in the Christian community called Bible Art Journaling. It has probably been helped along by the adult coloring craze, scrapbooking, bullet journaling, and of course social media.
The idea is that by embellish the extra large margins of a text designed for this purpose with art work or decorative pull quotes inspired by the text, one can develop a deeper connection to the text. You can find endless examples on Google image, Instagram, Pinterest, and of course endless hours on Youtube. On line stores like Amazon and Barnes & Noble have dozens of bible specially designed for people to create art in the margins. Although the social media aspect is new, illuminated manuscripts have a long tradition in Christianity and Islam. Ajahn Sucitto has a well known illuminated version of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta that can be seen in the book titled The Dawn of the Dhamma that can be read on line.
There is no shortage of criticism that people are taking it a bit far by completely obscuring the text with paint or drawing, which is probably well deserved. But there can be no doubt that for some folks decorating the margins with illustrations pulled from the text can be a healthy way of engaging with and remembering a text. Clearly it’s not for everyone.
Here is a text of Ven. Buddharakkhita’s translation of the Dhammapada laid out with a very large margin giving plenty of room for embellishments and illuminations. You can also get creative with the binding, and best of all you can reprint any page you want to redo.