As I prepare for our first ever Scholé Sisters of New Mexico meeting, I have been pondering chapter 1 of “The Living Page,” by: Laurie Bestvater. I hope you have found it just as inspiring as I have. Here were some of my first thoughts.
When I sit down in front of a new notebook, filled with excitement over the empty pages, I am also apprehensive, not wanting to spoil the beautifully blank space with something meaningless; but with a deep desire to make a lasting, meaningful mark. Reading “The Living Page” I am drawn in by the idea that keeping a notebook is in so many ways deeply human. It encompasses our desire to remember, and to marvel over the mysteries, sorrows, and glories of life. “Keeping” not only deepens our own understanding of the things we keep, but also leaves a lasting mark on the world. How many countless notebooks have been kept by our great thinkers, which are still being used to pass on their knowledge to us today?
This leaves me wondering about our current “paperless,” digital age. Whenever my husband prods me to use my smart phone calendar instead of the pretty day planner I keep; or talks of replacing my wall calendar with a screen, something deep inside of me resists. When I am prompted to make digital notes or lists, I later miss holding the book or paper in my hands. I almost never re-read journal entries that I have not taken the time to write out by hand. And I love my photo albums. The things that are stored in my computer and on my phone always seem to get lost in the heap of data.
Is it just me? Am I strange for wanting to keep these antiquated notebooks and papers and albums? “The Living Page” gives me hope.
There really is something about holding a book in your hands, or writing with a pen. You can see it in the older generation. My father, who is in his 70’s, recently wrote a very personal letter to someone he has known a long time. And he said to me, while he was thinking about what to put in that letter, “I am going to write the letter by hand, on paper, and send it in the mail.” There was something intrinsically more meaningful for him in doing that. He knew that the person receiving the letter would find more meaning in its contents if it came in the mail, hand written, and as a tangible item, instead of a digital email.
While discussing this with my husband, he brought up a good point. With digital media we have the ability to store an infinite amount of information. We can keep absolutely everything; and in doing so, much of it becomes meaningless.
Take photographs for instance. When we had cameras that took film, we were careful about the pictures we took. But with digital cameras we can take as many pictures as we want. We document everything and rarely look back. How often do we sift through those thousands of pictures we have taken? It’s quite the job to do so. Space is limited in a physical album, so only the best and most meaningful photos make the cut. There’s nothing like pulling out a photo album of your childhood and reliving all those memories in the frame of one beautifully put together book.
The same is true for the notebooks we keep. When we sit down to write out an entry by hand, chances are what we are keeping is in some way precious. As Bestvater points out, our forefathers kept records of the sacred. Following in their footsteps we are beckoned to do the same. It’s not the blathering, every day come and go of our random thoughts on Facebook, but the deeper, more meaningful thoughts, studies and works that get hand written in a journal that takes up physical space in our homes. If we are taking the time to write it down by hand and then keeping it somewhere in our house, it is worth keeping. Because we don’t pour over and retain the meaningless, but the meaningful.
What do you think? Is there something to this whole idea of Keeping? What did you think of Charlotte Mason’s perspective in all this?
It makes me want to continue my common place and nature study books, and to write out all the family stories I have, for my children and future grandchildren. It makes me want to print pictures and keep painting, scrapbooking; and do it all with my children.