Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Tall Letters; Naked Words.

non-linear notes

I'm not; I've never been afraid of typing and text files. Like anyone, I've thrown my faith into system after system, testing which places will bear its weight. On my silver computer there are programs upon programs, meant to consolidate my life into one compact place: every thought cataloged, everything named.

When I left home for college, I handed my brother a notebook. Spencer has handwriting that is upright and tangled. At sharp angles, the tall letters loop into each other. They loop out again.

I told Spencer that the notebook was somewhere to tuck his thoughts. If he could tuck them away, maybe, he would have more of them. My promises came from an optimistic trust, sometimes realized in notebooks of my own. The pages were small; he filled them fast. My own notebooks murmured more slowly. His murmured at the speed of light.

Systems capture volume. The problem with my systems? I never look back at naked words. I think in lists, but the lists are tangled, too. For a long time, I reserved thin sheets of paper, (bound), for things that were out of the ordinary: usually, melancholy words. And then on blinding sheets of printer paper, on sudden days, I would wrap words around words. Shopping lists, cursive and print. What to care about next.

This will never be a prescription. Spreadsheets, or tools that offer boundless hope, or loose bundles of text files: I have those, too. I have them and use them, and I'm finding ways to make the sameness of the fragments make sense.

But, at last. I'm throwing my faith into the system that emerged through accident. I have plenty of ways to remember the things that are urgent. I will write them on my hand. Or I'll send myself a message from the future. It's the things that aren't urgent that get lost. At the end of the day, in the minutes past midnight, the last thing I want to do is plug numbers and names into spreadsheets, or a perfect catalog of accurate memories. And if I expect to do that, (dread it slightly), I will wait. The thoughts will evacuate. I discovered this year that even photographs overload, when my system demands them. These systems are ones I designed. They were going to be comprehensive, and foolproof, and full.

But the best things, I've realized, are sometimes. So now I've lifted my thoughts from the home row, the dull glow, and then: when they come, they come at the speed of light.

For my brother, whose notebooks are foolproof after all.


Joshus said...

It's strange, I developed a number of systems by which I could supplement and improve the memory of my daily dealings, either for work or other purposes. Luckily, spending upwards of eight hours a day on a computer makes this pretty easy. What's odd is I'm not really happy with the end result. Even when my systems do catalog at least a third of my life with little effort, I feel like in committing the details to the various systems I am somehow expunging the records entirely, making each day have little relation to the next.

Just saying: by some function of my memory, knowing that a memory is committed elsewhere means that it can be discarded. Which means I hope my hard drive doesn't fail anytime soon. Maybe a notebook would be a better system.

Ironic side note: I could have sworn I wrote about this at some point, but I can't find it anywhere.

Spencer Miles Kimball said...

Ego says: I like this because I'm in it. Rest of me says: Notebook system excellent, though I am still two notebooks behind your gifting speed. If I think about it, I have filled approximately 570 small pages with thoughts and ideas, all thanks to you.