I keep returning to a thrown-off remark from my research on prison histories, that diary keepers are a relatively rare breed. It seemed overwhelmingly untrue to me, at first.
But then I break it down…we humans are relatively rare who have the ability to do things like read and write, have the time and energy and willingness to do it outside of an academic or work setting; so there, already, I’ve thrown tons of people into the pile of “not diary keepers,” whether by choice, upbringing, location…it’s all the more selective.
Then there’s my personal and eternal woe, that so many thoughts, actions, events never make it to a blog, to a journal, and the corollary to that hypothesis, how much this is a subjective record of mental activity, and not external reality; how much this is like Mrs. Dalloway, only the slightest of off-hand comments about where I am when I’m writing, or random stories, or what is happening in the world. And all the rest is the crazy.
And then I think of a historian, trying to figure out the riddles of the 21st century American man, who stumbles upon this, of all things. It offers him nothing. And all of the minds, the vibrant lives I pass in the metro and on the streets every day, those hopes and dreams and moods and pleasures - how many of them have stories he’d really rather hear? And how many of them choose to be storytellers?
So I keep coming back to the hare-brain scheme of giving everyone I know a notebook and forcing them to write in it, if not everyday, then at least every so often. If not their deepest thoughts, then at least some entertaining anecdote they’ve heard, or something that seems, in that moment, momentous or monotonous or aggravating. Then journal writers would be less rare a breed. Then I – the future historian – for we are one – would better understand what goes on in the world today, would better see all of the figures, scattered through the landscape, picking up sand and ordering the granules into piles.
Maybe I’ll ask for a second of this…hypothetical…Faustian grant, later on in my existence, and try to do just that. Random journals to you, and to you, and to you. And we’ll all live in an “objective” world, and experience the same “objective” reality, and not a one of us will come to the same conclusion. Except that we will all hate Ayn Rand.
1 month ago