My intent is to write about things that come up in our family or about something I’m reading in Scripture and in books or about something I’ve seen in the news. But my last couple of posts have been a little deep, so I thought it’d be good to come up for air, so to speak.
This week’s post is quite practical and may not be up your alley at all, but hear me out. If you’re reading me here on the Internet—where else would you be?—then you’re taking in information; whether it’s of value or not is up to you. What do we do with the information we absorb? Like a sponge we can become bloated both with what should be kept and what should be wrung out. How do we hold on to what’s worth keeping? Here are some ideas.
With my dad I used to play a computer game called “Sid Meier’s Pirates,” a feature of which was the Captain’s Log. The log detailed the pirate’s voyage: what cities you ransacked, what ships you captured, what governor’s daughters you rescued, when you divided the plunder, etc. It was a journal of where you’d been.
I cannot overstate the value journaling has had in my life. For nearly a decade now I have kept some sort of journal. For many years I simply recorded my thoughts and feelings with pen and paper, and I have a box in my garage stuffed with notebooks. In recent years I’ve utilized my laptop computer for my journal, which because of password protection—how many public WIFI’s do I use?—seems a little more secure than a box in my garage. But I suppose if anyone can safely trudge through my garage they’re welcome to my deepest, darkest secrets. (Actually, most of my secrets are never divulged since I write from the perspective that the reader already knows what they are. It’s usually recommended never to write something down you wouldn’t want someone discovering.)
An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. —Proverbs 18:15 esv
I was listening to a Philip Yancey audiobook recently and something struck me. In his writing Yancey very often refers to various reader correspondence and to conversations he had years ago. It’s as though he somehow catalogs his interactions that warrant deeper reflection. A writer I esteem must be doing something worthy of replicating.
Journaling for me has become a way to ponder not only my own thoughts and feelings but those of others. Yet how could I think further about someone else’s statements unless I capture them—much like Yancey does? Well, if you’re interested, as I am, in really learning from what everyday life offers, I’d like to offer a few tools. And if you’re aware of others, please let me know.
Then [Jesus] opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. —Luke 24:45 esv
Pen and Paper
The first tool is the simplest: pen and paper. I’ve heard Mark Driscoll mention he always has with him a Moleskine, though he mispronounces it—it should be mol-a-skeen’-a. I always wondered what it was until I discovered one at Barnes and Noble. It’s simply a notebook—the “legendary notebook of artists, writers, intellectuals, and travelers,” according to their website. They come in various sizes and styles. Since I’d like to be considered as an artist, writer, intellectual, traveler—or all of the above—I purchased a simple set of small notebooks. In these I jot down ideas, lists, tasks I don’t want to forget (and no longer want to think about until I have an opportunity to address them), quotes, conversation summaries, and many other items worth remembering. By the way, just owning one sadly doesn’t make me an artist or writer, but I’m well on my way to becoming legendary as a Moleskine user.
The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge. —Proverbs 15:14 esv
Technology at Hand
I’ve become greatly disillusioned with Microsoft Outlook, since it does very little that another service doesn’t do much, much better. One company that helps the note taker is Evernote, which offers a note-taking and organizing tool on various platforms. Their iPhone app offers more than simply typing in a note. I can take a snapshot of an item at a store, for instance, and catalog it. What’s more, I can record voice memos, which comes in handy when I want to note something in an audiobook or podcast I’m listening to while driving. And further, I can sync all my notes in various formats in a host of user-created folders to the web-based software, as well as to my desktop software. The desktop version offers even more advantages, including a screen clipper, which enables me to copy something on my computer screen. The absolute best part: it’s all FREE! (They also have a Blackberry app, though BB users aren’t usually creative thinkers!)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. —Romans 12:2 esv
As Jerry Seinfeld once lamented, anyone can take reservations but it’s the holding that’s the most important part. I determine to set aside some time each week to go through my collected information and weed out what isn’t worth holding on to and index what I want to keep. I may delete an Evernote item or simply cross through something in my Moleskine. I’ll also skim through my journal and cite noteworthy entries in Evernote, linking to the files themselves. It’s paramount to do this weekly, for the more time between taking a note and deciding to keep it the less I’ll be able to remember what it was.
Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. —1 Peter 1:13 esv
We are certainly living in the Information Age, but we aren’t necessarily more intelligent than previous generations. I can’t speak for yours, but sometimes my brain acts like that old 386 computer I played “Pirates” on, unable to process all I take in. The tools I mentioned and my aim to be a more studious man will enable me to be a better steward of the great resource God has granted each of us: our mind.