I go to my Word Press “Dashboard” and see that I’ve published 1148 posts since beginning in the year 2000. It did seem as if I had to do something special in that year for that’s the only millennial (1000) I’ll get to experience in this life. Also, as for a chosen few at the time, that year was going to be man’s last year on this earth meaning that I had better get down to work (writing). It wasn’t of course.
Now 1148 posts even all together don’t make a book although I have had all of them printed up at my own expense in book form. Does that mean I’ve written a book? Well no. I suppose it’s possible that the greatest writers don’t write and haven’t written books. (They tell stories like Homer?) Just as the best of us, the real heroes and saints among us, are not always recognized as such. But most of us who would be known as writers do publish books. And up until now I haven’t. I keep a blog or in my case a journal.
During the past 17 years my journal has been my blog. Before the internet I did keep a journal, almost from the time I was a college student. I would keep bits of my writing in notebooks that I carried around with me in shirt and coat pockets, some of which I can still put my hands on. Also there were scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, the margins of books, most of which didn’t survive until today. Before email there were snail mails that I used to write but because I almost never kept personal copies they’ve mostly disappeared like the writing scraps I’ve mentioned.
If I did write in the margins of books they weren’t as a rule library books but my own copies. I would buy books rather than borrow them from the library. It was and has been my habit to own the books I wanted to read. But buying a book is not the same thing as reading the book. Most often I would buy the book, read a chapter or two, and then shelve it, and if it was non-fiction, as were most of my collection, and not a thriller, only rarely, would I read it all the way through.
The books on my shelves are like the collections of the great books, books that everyone wants to have read, if not own. They are the books that I admire most, books that I always wanted my students to read, but for the most part haven’t read myself. But now things are different. Because of the internet the world is, as far as I’m concerned, a better place.
Why? Because now I can keep my book collections on my iPhone and at any time, when in bed, when I’m up and about, especially when I’m waiting for someone or something, I can easily select from among them and read. The advent of digital books has brought about the big change in my reading life. The shelves of books that I’m looking at right now all about me as I type are much as they were before the advent of the internet. Since the internet they haven’t changed much if at all, the same books in the same shelves not touched in years. The big change is that I’m reading more now, not them, but the digital copies of them, downloaded from the Cloud.
Here I am five paragraphs into this post and I haven’t yet said what was on my mind. What is a journal? Now, my Blog? For some 17 years it’s been a record, very incomplete of my own reading, of the stories and ideas, and a few images that have most impressed me, mostly all from the internet, meaning from either books I’ve downloaded or articles I’ve read online.
Now the great danger of always reading the writing of others is of no longer having a thought or idea of one’s own. That may be my case. For it does seem too often that there’s where I’m at. What if I were to start my day, not by reading but by writing? And when not writing work in the garden, or talk? Would I begin to discover myself, have ideas of my own?
Because that’s what it should be all about isn’t it, that thing they say about life-long education, having thoughts and ideas of one’s own, and thereby knowing oneself. “Know thyself,” what did the Oracle at Delphi mean by that?
For the most part school means, not to know oneself, but to “learn” (about oneself?) by studying the discoveries and the thoughts of others, be it mathematics or the sciences, the two subject matters that interest me the most, and regarding which, by the way, I have not a single thought of my own.
How often did I ever hear while in school that knowledge of oneself was what school should be most about? The Ancient Greek aphorism “know thyself” or “gnothi seauton” (Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν) is just one of the Delphic maxims inscribed in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. We tend to associate the maxim with the Greeks, and in particular with Socrates although the correct origin, we’re told, is Luxor in ancient Egypt.
So what’s next? A few ideas of my own? Or at least ideas that have evolved a bit from their sources, and have taken, and gained a little something from contact with me?