Imagine you are the centre of the world. Not difficult for many of us, deep down. Regardless of how much we understand about how others live and see the world, we are the director, author and sole actor in the screenplay of our lives.
We crave the vicarious experience of seeing through another person’s eyes, through a camera lens or the words on the page, and it is not a mistake that the words we use to describe a masterful work is connected to this feeling. We are “caught up”, “carried away”, we “lose ourselves” in the story. But even in the best works, we are always conscious of ourselves as the observer, something that artists play with, exploit, comment on, but can never overcome.
We are the amalgam of those tangled thoughts in our heads, conflicting, contradicting, negotiating. We see ourselves in the singular by the mere fact that we have only one body to express the multitude of potential actions that compete for primacy every waking moment. And we are a generation of the image, the presentation to the world of the best of our faces, the one that ends up on our Facebook page, our Instagram account, our studied words on a self-conscious blog.
So why do we crave to see the ‘other’ in ourselves and in those people that we respect the most? Why would we adore, or appreciate, or even respect those scraps of notes, journal entries, of ‘drafts’ of unpolished thoughts that were only steps towards what the author wanted to represent to the world?
Because that is the closest to the truth in ourselves, and in others, that we would ever hope to get.
You are standing in a time machine travelling one hour, per hour. Where is your focus?
Your notes tell a lot more about yourself than you think.
Are you focused on the past? That way leads research, facts, calculation, useful tidbits you keep in careful index cards and Evernote files, but it can also enforce your bias, your cynicism about the world. “Lies, damn lies and statistics.” You can celebrate the past, reflect on your experience, but careful that does not lead to regret, remorse, the sinkhole of many diaries.
Is your Instagram account full of inspirational messages, your journal full of goal setting, visionary quotes? Do you look forward to a future (avoid those rosy hues) or dream of looking back on your present self from an ideal past? Keep the goal-setting but a polished and tabulated goal tracker can become the monkey on your back if you begin to fall off the wagon.
Or do you “live the moment”? Your jottings full of today’s experiences, the image of the moment, to capture the snippets of the day, the party, the Flickr photo of the burger in front of you, that “makes life worth living”? Great, but remember by collecting these treasures you are not just celebrating the moment, you are adding to the trove of those “perfect me’s” to compare yourself against in the future.
So what should you do? All of the above, in whatever combination you like, but in the end it’s about the balance. Find your blog is about past memories, past relationships? Take your camera and watch a sunset. Are you checking for Facebook ‘likes’ to help motivate you for an interview or a test you’ve been dreading? Look through your old photos, your old diary entries, to see times you made it through, the times that made you a better person.
A notebook is the closest we will get to holding a person’s soul. Not just the content, but also the care taken on certain words, on copying certain information and not others, the style of handwriting, the re-work, the themes of the entire work. It is also the physical object itself, the choice of book, of paper. Torn pages in a binder or carefully snipped collections. It is the journey the object has taken to get to where it is, corners well-thumbed and cover worn from being kept in a back pocket, or numbered and filed in a shelf next to tens of identical records.
Not one of these is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, but it all adds up to “us”.