Gleaning from My Journals

Often I have opened my journal deriding myself for the number of days that have passed since I penned an entry.

However, I’ve discovered my journaling extends to inveterate note-taking elsewhere.

We’re taught we must never write in borrowed library books and should avoid making notes in any book with permanent ink. While I am faithful in my treatment of books borrowed from the library, I have never owned a hardback or paperback book which I have not filled with notes made with the most comfortable pen I can find (and I have owned hundreds of comfortable pens).

I often recall the inspiration I’ve drawn from the American philosopher and psychologist William James (1842-1910). When the executors of James’ estate in 1910 went through his voluminous personal library, they discovered James’ pen had annotated most of the volumes, but only on the first 50 or 75 pages. James, it appears, rarely finished a book he had begun to read.

My book collection, including many textbooks I’ve saved from my formal studies, is likewise lovingly mutilated. There is probably no volume on the shelves of my library (except, perhaps reference volumes and atlases) that is not heavily annotated in its margins and endpapers.

Here is a slightly edited journal entry I made in 2015 that captures the attitude I’ve nurtured in my love affair with note-taking since my teens:

“Almost 19 months since I put pen to page in this notebook.

“So be it. I have other notebooks and jottings all over the place. I’ve succumbed to the reality that I cannot read, hear a lecture, or watch a film or video without at some point, in some notebook, jotting down a reaction or a reference of some sort.

“My pen is an extension of my mind’s strolls through life.

“Some walk for life.

“I must write for life.”

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