an idiosyncratic scrapbook

You may wonder why I label my Mustang Trail Race reflections a scrapbook. Well maybe you don’t because my whole blog of fancies follows that approach.

The wikipedia lemma is actually an interesting read, especially if you also read the one for memorabilia, which redirects to the umbrella label of souvenir, and especially the one for its historic predecessor, the commonplace book.

Commonplace books (or commonplaces) were a way to compile knowledge, usually by writing information into books. Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas. Commonplaces were used by readers, writers, students, and scholars as an aid for remembering useful concepts or facts they had learned. Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests. They became significant in Early Modern Europe…

Commonplacing was particularly attractive to authors. Some, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Mark Twain kept messy reading notes that were intermixed with other quite various material; others, such as Thomas Hardy, followed a more formal reading-notes method that mirrored the original Renaissance practice more closely. The older, “clearinghouse” function of the commonplace book, to condense and centralize useful and even “model” ideas and expressions, became less popular over time.

Some modern writers see blogs as an analogy to commonplace books. (more references in the original).

Wasn’t aware of this. Always nice to discover the pedigree of one’s approach. Anyways, you may also wonder why I label this post an idiosyncratic scrapbook. Isn’t that tautological? Sure it is, but that doesn’t make it redundant. There is more to language than logic. Every scrapbook is personal and thus one of its kind. But there are scrapbooks and scrapbooks and mine aims to do more than  collect and preserve memoranda.

Time for a break and a scrapbook video:

My scrapbook comes from the other end, the production as it were, rather than the product. It’s the writing that brings out the scraps already floating around somewhere, in there, and allows the subterranean work already accomplished to come to the surface. The book that opened my eyes about this role of writing for thinking is Writing for Social Scientists by Howard Becker. The writing then makes the explicit ordering, etc. easier, and gives directions for further action;  the results are fed back to the caverns where the actual cooking is done, and over time a dish emerges that hopefully improves on previous ones (but is never going to be an end, the moment it is served, it will again become a scrap in one’s own interior, and also that of others – all of this is very much a collective process). The writing is a tool for the thinking, and thus makes for better thinking, one hopes.

One of the many reasons that make the conscious, scrapbook part of this process important, is that what goes on under the surface is not only beautiful organic creativity, but also moulded by frames, personal hang-ups, zeitgeist conventions, atavistic heritages, to name but a few. Those are unavoidable givens, and without frames, nothing much creative can and will happen, so I’m not ranting against conceptual thinking here. Reality is different from concepts, however, as we do not have unmediated access to reality, whatever it is, so no use trying to escape from yourself, because it’s all you got. But it does mean that it’s best to look at yourself, as you look at others, a source of wisdom, amusement, and much else that is good, but not truth.

Thus, the scrapbook format is in the most literal sense of the term a reminder of what I also need to take into account; and by extension, what I want to bring to anyone’s attention who is going to Mustang (for this particular one), or, more generally follows the blog. In ways that I do not yet understand, a rough, associative collection of scraps, seems to work better as a check on the biasing frames of my emotional and cognitive machinery than full-fledged, ordered arguments for a certain position or perspective. The latter either take me in immediately, and then, after a while, start to lose their shine when alternatives manage to pierce the initial this-is-it persuasive bubble, or immediately kick-start some kinda yes-but mind-game. Neither of these is as helpful, as having some appropriate scraps at hand, just enough to prevent me from totally loosing myself in one or the other storyline. Because none of them is all there is to it.

I hope it works that way for at least some of you too, and that my self-reminders turn out to do you some good. Enough reflection for the day, time for a final scrap of sound.

This entry was posted in Mustang Trail Race 2014, personal, psychology and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to an idiosyncratic scrapbook

  1. Pingback: mountains, people, roads and other fantasies | roger henke's fancies

  2. Pingback: environments as palimpsests | roger henke's fancies

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