For the Record

A few mornings ago, I read a couple of pages from Susan Sontag’s journals and notebooks (As Consciousness is Harnessed to Flesh).  I don’t have a copy; I searched it out online, spurred to look for it by reading someone else’s comments about the book.

Reading those few pages did not prompt me to add Sontag’s work to my list of “must-read” material.  But reading what she wrote made me think, again, about my little black book and the fact that I’ve not produced physical evidence of what I think, how I feel, or what I believe.  This blog is ephemeral, just as my other blogs are and have been.  I deleted my first blog one day in a fit of displeasure with my writing; I erased the few jewels hidden there among the hideous stones. The same could happen to this blog; I could obliterate this electronic amalgamation of brain spillage in an instant. It occurred to me this morning, though, that I would be loathe to destroy a hand-written journal.

The thought process that took me back to my empty little black book took me to the non-existent little black books that I wish my parents and my grandparents and their grandparents would have written.  If only those people, and their friends and their neighbors and the people they dealt with in their day-to-day lives had kept journals, I might have had the opportunity for a better sense of what their lives were really like.

What might the average day have been like for my mother, a school teacher, as she and my father prepared to send my brothers and sisters and me off to school each day?  What was her day at school like?  What did she and her friends talk about while they were playing bridge?

At any rate, for the record, I will spend time in the coming days and weeks and months  recording my thoughts about things I cannot change, people I have no way of becoming, histories I cannot change, and loves I cannot control.


About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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7 Responses to For the Record

  1. druxha says:

    I say this, for I was witness to my fathers “scribblings” on a napkin, tablecloth, and on occasions, a blank piece of paper. He wrote his sentiments, and did drawings of what he saw around him. I too had read his writing prior to my birth. He spoke of his fear of defeat as a husband, father, provider, and as a man. He suffered greatly in those times. But this reading gave me an invaluable insight as to what was my father then, and what we would become later. From those early readings, though I was youngest when I’d read this, I had a keen understanding of what was this man, my father. It was link to his with me, that was silently understood by me. It made our relation a strong one…all because of what he’d written and kept….

  2. druxha says:

    Ahh…but you knew her after she’d written this, also. Maybe you could see then where she was at, and what she became later. You’d mention your mother in fond memory of her endeavors as your mother, and as an English teacher. Do you not think it was a good thing to see here feelings at different times in her, life, John?

  3. druxha says:

    Its a testament to a time in ones life, with no importance given to what vehicle was used to write it….

  4. Trish, one of my favorite pieces of writing is a story written by my mother when she was a student in college. To me, it is an incredibly poignant story of her very low self-esteem at one point in her life. If she had written more, when she was older, it might have changed my perspective on the world. As it is, I have this remembrance of her, long before I was born, thinking of herself as unattractive and unworthy, except for her hands, which as she expressed in the story were beautiful.

  5. druxha says:

    I did a great deal of calligraphy. When you work in the art of writing what is written, by you, or by someone else, each letter entails a special stroke, and each completed word has a song. I decided long ago that my calligraphy (did my genealogical family history, both sides, on a grand scale) would remain in between a shuffle of random notes, or displayed, and framed on a favorite wall. Pain taking thoughts should never be deleted, I feel, no, they remain as a statement. I think perhaps, there is nothing more beautiful, nostalgic, and melancholy as reading through writings of a loved one…thoughts you would never know if they had not retained those writing, even if it was done on a particular used napkin…that would only give it a stronger scent of its history…it all counts, you see….what is written….

  6. Yes, Juan, you’ve hit on something important. And while the world would be better-served if each of us treasured what we’ve written, the attraction of “delete all” may be too great at times, as it was for me and my first blog, So I will write, on real paper with a real pen, or will print and retain what I’ve written on this blog. Maybe both.

  7. jserolf says:

    I don’t weigh style or “how successful I think I was” in a writing moment these days. They say Tolstoy would never read his own work, because he’d get anxious about changing it all again. He was never satisfied. Maybe that’s what God really is?

    I think about the works Rattner tucked and rolled away, only to discover them later, or the countless love poems he wrote to Bettina, now all put away in a museum vault. As I get old, every word in the past is as precious as the moment I put it down. How could I know its value back then?

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