Sunday, March 20, 2005

Towards a philosophy of note-taking

Anxious, impatiently awaiting a phone call, I tried to relax by reading Vilém Flusser's small book on photography. Last year, Steven Shaviro put me on to it, and this week I found a secondhand copy.

The opening seven pages are extraordinary. It is about somewhat more than photography! So I began taking notes. It distracted me and I relaxed.

Each page of the book filled a page of notes in my large Moleskine. You won't keep this up, I told myself. It always happens this way. You start a book and you take copious notes for the first chapter. You think this time for the first time you won't forget what you've read. But then they peter out. In the notebook there is usually a page number like '27' next to the note. Yet below, the next note is marked '156'. It's shameful! So what's the point of all these notes now?

Actually, in the midst of this frenzy of note-taking, I made a note to think about note-taking.

But if it was in the midst of the frenzy, wasn't it part of the frenzy? No. Because it was calmness itself.

The note-taking during the reading of the Flusser book enabled me to overcome the travel sickness in the arrhythmic opening movement that is inevitable in an unfamiliar book. Once I am further into the journey, I can sit back and breath steadily, even doze off and dream. The other note was a sedative.

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