Happy Year of Scribbling in the Margins!

Scribble in the Margins LOW RES (blog)Today begins a new year. I am feeling the potential of that fact with every breath.

A large part of that force of energy is coming from notes I have scribbled to myself, in the book I happen to be re-reading today, Alan Watts’s “This is It.”

It is not just his brilliant mind that is energizing me; it is the scribbles from my own mind, reconnecting today with that confluence of his-mind-and-my-mind from the last time I read this collection of essays. It is the same reconnecting that happens each time I revisit the handful of books that I return to again and again – it is not just their words, but the synergy of their thoughts and my thoughts becoming something new.

Today those words – Alan Watts’s and mine – are helping me to get clear about Creating the Future’s theory of change (which I am deep in the middle of writing.) Some days, though, it is Pema Chodron, or Steven Pinker, or any number of wise souls whose thinking has spurred my own thinking about the this-es and thats of the way the world works.

As always happens, today it is Alan’s words that resonate AND it is my words that resonate. It all becomes our words, our wisdom, our learning.  In all my work, it is not just what I’ve been taught – the words as they wrote them – but what I’ve learned from those lessons, that furthers my own new learning and re-learning, my aha’s both old and revived.

  • What was it about that phrase that grabbed me?
  • What was important about those words?
  • Wow I’ve grown so much since then.
  • Wow I’ve thought the same thought over and over for all these years.

For millennia, rabbis have added insights and cross-references and interpretations in the margins of the ancient books of Hebrew law. Thousands of years later, we learn not just from the laws as written, but from the learnings of each of those learned individuals. Their scribbles in the margins encourage each of us to weigh and consider and relate those learnings to our own lives.

And so I am happy today, that I have scribbled in the margins as I’ve read and re-read words that have had meaning for me over time.

And I invite you to do the same. And to share those with us all, right here now.

Go to your shelf, and pull down a book that you come back to over and over. Find a passage that has meant something to you – your own scribbles in the margins. And comment below (or if you’re reading this via email, click through here). Let’s add your learning to all our learning, to create something none of us could have come to on our own.

I can think of no more joyous way to start the year.

3 Responses to Happy Year of Scribbling in the Margins!

  1. When the English novelist E.M. Foster died, his library was notable for the fact that every book in it had been annotated at some point in his long life, and often at different points. Having been chastised in my youth for writing in the margins and underlining passages, it was a great relief to learn that writers do that — it’s a conversation with the author, and surprise!– most of those notes (mine and Fosters) came/come in the form of questions. Happy New Year!

  2. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. My marginalia, prompted by his chapter on The Wider Community: “Politics is the practice of optimizing the goals of unrelated individuals toward a common interest.” This scribbling was written by me over a decade ago, and it still resonates — it hearkens to the original meaning of politics – whatever involved people i affairs that went beyond personal and family welfare. A quote from this chapter: “life would be harsh indeed if some people did not enjoy investing psychic energy in common concerns, thereby creating synergy in the social system….a community is good if it offers people a chance to enjoy as many aspects of their lives as possible, while allowing them to develop their potential in the pursuit of ever greater challenges.”

  3. Oh I do love these!!! Can’t wait to see what others add. And this is definitely something to touch back to over the year ahead – a way of learning from each other. LOVE this!! 🙂