commonplace book

alan jacobs on the commonplace book:

Commonplace books became widely used in the early modern period, largely because literate people were discombobulated by the flood of information that the printing press had unleashed on them. (One 17th-century writer wailed, “We have reason to fear that the multitude of books which grows every day in a prodigious fashion will make the following centuries fall into a state as barbarous as that of the centuries that followed the fall of the Roman Empire.”) Some of these were just scrapbooks, the predecessors of today’s Everything Buckets, as Alex Payne has called them — applications like Evernote or DEVONthink — and would be places to store recipes, notes from sermons, remedies for common maladies … you know, everything.

But the other kind of commonplace book was different. Its goal was to gather a collection of the wisest statements, usually of the ancients, for future meditation. And here the key thing was to write the words in your own hand — by this means, by laboriously and carefully copying out the insights of people smarter than you, you could absorb and internalize their wisdom. Call it osmosis-by-handwriting. (Some people would copy out whole books by their favorite writers in the hopes of achieving some kind of voodoo transference of power.)

and elsewhere he says:

I think I can hazard this claim: Keeping a commonplace book is easy, but using one? Not so much. I started my first one when I was a teenager, and day after day I wedged open books under a foot of my ancient Smith-Corona manual typewriter and banged out the day’s words of wisdom. I had somewhat different ideas then of what counted as wisdom. The mainstays of that era—Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan were perhaps the dominant figures—haven’t made any appearances in my online world. But even then I suspected something that I now know to be true: The task of adding new lines and sentences and paragraphs to one’s collection can become an ever tempting substitute for reading, marking, learning, and inwardly digesting what’s already there. And wisdom that is not frequently revisited is wisdom wasted.

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who knew?

joel l. daniels, a book about things i will tell my daughter:

make the choice to be a better you, and live in that truth, you are that truth. you are the love you need, the water you need, the nourishment you need, the things you have desired, have wanted and wished and dreamed and prayed and asked for, have prayed god’s hands apart for, all reside within. i beg you to dig deeper, dig harder, dig longer for the answer that lies right at the tip of you. a million and one fireflies circling your light-beams, who knew? who knew the arches in your feet, the disproportionate parts of your self, the dips, the dents, the density of your skin, the weight of it, the volume and mass of your skin, could be the thing. you are the thing, merely a mirror you are, a magnetic reflection, a beacon bouncing back what is needed to be brought forward.

Loki is onto something here

I come with glad tidings, of a world made free. … [Free from] Freedom. Freedom is life’s great lie. Once you accept that, in your heart, you will know peace.

Is not this simpler? Is this not your natural state? It’s the unspoken truth of humanity that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power. For identity. You were made to be ruled. In the end, you will always kneel.

– the avengers (2012)

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ministering to my own sores

Seneca, to Lucilius:

I have withdrawn not only from men, but from affairs, especially from my own affairs; I am working for later generations, writing down some ideas that may be of assistance to them. There are certain wholesome counsels, which may be compared to prescriptions of useful drugs; these I am putting into writing; for I have found them helpful in ministering to my own sores, which, if not wholly cured, have at any rate ceased to spread.