commonplace book

commonplace book





intro’d to this term while reading Steven Johnson‘s – where good ideas come from:

.. the memory-enhancing powers of the commonplace book. In its most customary form, “commonplacing,” as it was called, involved transcribing interesting or inspirational passages from one’s reading, assembling a personalized encyclopedia of quotations. There is a distinct self-help quality to the early descriptions of commonplacing’s virtues: maintaining the books enabled one to “lay up a fund of knowledge, from which we may at all times select what is useful in the several pursuits of life.”

the brain ness.

.. indexing method, a system which not only made it easier to find passages, but also served the higher purpose of “facilitat[ing] reflexive thought.”

site as prototype (app/chip output). wikipedia style..

The tradition of the commonplace book contains a central tension between order and chaos, between the desire for methodical arrangement, and the desire for surprising new links of association. For some Enlightenment-era advocates, the systematic indexing of the commonplace book became an aspirational metaphor for one’s own mental life.

oh. the dance.

Reading and writing were therefore inseparable activities. They belonged to a continuous effort to make sense of things, for the world was full of signs: you could read your way through it; and by keeping an account of your readings, you made a book of your own, one stamped with your personality.

so imagining this account.. fuller/deeper than ever.. yet less time consuming to document. [slideshares appear. no?] – application ness. document everything ness. like a book you are writing.. but it will never be written/finished.








…without missing a beat of your life.

The beauty of Locke’s scheme was that it provided just enough order to find snippets when you were looking for them, but at the same time it allowed the main body of the commonplace book to have its own unruly, unplanned meanderings. Imposing too much order runs the risk of orphaning a promising hunch in a larger project that has died, and it makes it difficult for those ideas to mingle and breed when you revisit them. You need a system for capturing hunches, but not necessarily categorizing them, because categories can build barriers between disparate ideas.


wikipedia small





Each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.


from Jason Silvainstagram ness:

italicize the memory


birth of a word ness..


via Mary Ann jan 2015 – making a commonplace book..


may 2016 – via Maria


5/10/16 6:02 AM
W.H. Auden on writing, belief, doubt, enchantment, and the artist’s relationship with truth…
long before there was the Internet, there was the commonplace book — a creative and intellectual ledger of fragmentary inspirations, which a writer would collect from other books and copy into a notebook, often alongside his or her reflections and riffs. These borrowed ideas are in dialogue with the writer’s own imagination and foment it into original thinking. Over long enough a period of time — years, decades, often a lifetime — the commonplace book, while composed primarily of copied passages, comes to radiate the singular sensibility of its keeper: beliefs are refined, ideas incubated, intellectual fixations fleshed out, and the outlines of a personhood revealed. (Brain Pickings is, in an unshakable sense, a commonplace book.)
indeed – Maria as great ie…
Partway between medieval florilegium and modern-day Tumblr, the commonplace book has been particularly beloved by poets, whose business is the revelation of wholeness through the fragmentary. Among the most devoted and masterful practitioners of the art of the commonplace book was the poet W.H. Auden (February 21, 1907–September 29, 1973), who published his in 1970 as A Certain World: A Commonplace Book (public library) — a collection of quotations and reflections, arranged alphabetically by subject, beginning with Accedieand ending with Writing.
He returns to the subject from a different angle in the entry for Enchantment, which opens with a quote by Hugo von Hofmannsthal:Where is your Self to be found? Always in the deepest enchantment that you have experienced.” In a sentiment that calls to mind Alan Lightman’s beautiful assertion that “faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand… the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world ,” Auden writes:
The state of enchantment is one of certainty. When enchanted, we neither believe nor doubt nor deny: we know, even if, as in the case of a false enchantment, our knowledge is self-deception.
When we are truly enchanted we desire nothing for ourselves, only that the enchanting object or person shall continue to exist. When we are falsely enchanted, we desire either to possess the enchanting being or be possessed by it.
on enchantment.. perhaps huge to commonplace book.. is that its being a commonplace book.. rather than evidence…

ie: hosting life bits hosting enchantment

How to own your story – Vivian Gornick, who turns 81 today, on the art of personal…
It suddenly struck me that our cultural narrative about privacy is completely backward: What we really fear is not that the internet — or a prospective employer, or a nosy lover, or Big Brother — knows too much about us, but that it knows too little; that it fails to encompass Whitman’s multitudes which each of contains; that it reduces the larger, complex truth of who we are to a few fragmented facts about what we do; that it hijacks our rich, ever-evolving personal stories and replaces them with disjointed anecdotal data.
danger of a single story ness
…to master the art of personal narrative so that we can write — writing being that most lucid mode of thinking and an indispensable form of talking to ourselves — about the expansive, dimensional, textured reality of who we are.
imagine.. not limited to medium of writing..
and imagine.. all of us free enough to indulge in these convos.. everyday. as the day.
and imagine.. the ability of those convos to dance..
perhaps now… simple enough mech… not write only… but convo w self (and others) in any/all the modes

I am a storyteller, for better and for worse.

I suspect that a feeling for stories, for narrative, is a universal human disposition, going with our powers of language, consciousness of self, and autobiographical memory.

so hosting life bits brings equity to this universal human disposition…

2 convos… with self  and others… via any medium

But Dr. Sacks’s intense introversion is also what made him such an astute listener and observer — the very quality that rendered him humanity’s most steadfast sherpa into the strange landscape of how minds other than our own experience the seething cauldron of mystery we call life.