Gleanings from My Journals #1: I must write for life

(Journal Gleaning #1) Revised Nov. 15, 2019

I frequently open my journal to write and deride myself for the number of days I have allowed to pass since I penned an entry.

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

We’re taught we should never write in borrowed library books and must avoid ever making notes in any publication using permanent ink. Although, we seem to worry little about tearing apart newspapers with markers and scissors. (Except, of course, those we peruse in public library reading rooms.)

While I am faithful in my treatment of books read or borrowed at any library, I have never owned a hardback or paperback edition which I have not filled with notes in margins or endpapers using the most comfortable pen I can find (and I have owned hundreds of comfortable pens since being nurtured in the public school’s penmanship decades. Similarly, I own scores of composition notebooks partially filled with journal entries).

I’ve drawn a somewhat morbid pleasure from an anecdote concerning 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 that most of the volumes had been annotated by James’ pen, but only on the first 50 or 60 pages. James, it appears, rarely finished a book he had begun to read, and what he did read, he heavily annotated.

My personal book collection, including many textbooks I’ve saved from my formal studies, is likewise lovingly mutilated.

Most of the volumes on the shelves of my personal library (except, perhaps reference volumes and atlases) are heavily marked. The truth is, I cannot open a book to read without simultaneously picking up a pen to begin underscoring and commenting. (Though, I detest using highlighters for this compulsion, just as I detest publications printed on papyrus-mimicking tissue pages!)

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 jottings all over the place. I’ve succumbed to the reality that I cannot read, hear a lecture/sermon, or watch a film/video without at some point, in some notebook, jotting down a reaction or a reference of some sort. My pen has become an extension of my mind’s strolls through life.

          “Some walk for life. I must write for life.”


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