I carry a notebook. It serves as my ancillary memory. Without it, I would lose many of the details I observe, the myriad thoughts that flit and flicker through consciousness. If you want to find out what you’re thinking, keep a notebook in one pocket and a pen in another.
Once in awhile, I go through past notebooks to harvest the shards of wisdom recorded there:
From a Charles Kuralt “On the Road” interview with a woman in the South who would cook every day and offer her meals to strangers for free: “All my life I have wanted to live by the side of the road and be a friend of man.” (Bob Edwards’ Weekend, Sunday mornings at 10 a.m. on WBEZ)
Cardinal Bernardin, quoted during a sermon at Ascension Church on Nov. 15: “May your gaze be gentle when you look within.”
A Frank Lloyd Wright T-shirt at the Chicago Architecture Foundation gift shop: “An idea is salvation by imagination.”
From a sermon at Unity Temple in December: “Control always tends toward tyranny.”
“I miss Rome so much.” (A young woman to her companion as they pass an Italian café)
The cover of People magazine after the Tiger Woods scandal broke, with a photo of his wife, Elin, and the slug: “Inside Her Ordeal.” (That’s the nature of modern, media-driven voyeurism, isn’t it? We want to be “inside” one another’s ordeals.)
Mom to daughter sitting behind her on a tandem bike on the Salt Creek Bike Trail: “You are pedaling?”
Dad riding bikes with his son, talking on his cell phone: “I just wanted to get two nice chairs out by the firepit for when we have fires.” (How often do we plan for future pleasure and miss the moment?)
Playwright David Mamet from a New York Times article: “All drama is about lies. When the lie is exposed, the play is over.”
A young man with tattooed arms, sitting on the steps in front of the Art Institute, holding open a large book with a sign: “Will play Nietzsche trivia for $1.”
From a recent speech by President Obama (probably the address on health care to Congress): “In the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. … We should aim to be a country where the strong are just and the weak are secure.” Hear, hear (is anyone listening?).
Reinhold Niebuhr’s original version of the famous “Serenity” prayer: “Father, give us the courage to change what must be, serenity to accept what cannot be helped, and the insight to know the one from the other.” (Notice in the popular version, the “serenity to accept” comes first. Niebuhr’s inclination was first to change what can be changed. That’s an important distinction. Too many are willing to accept first because they don’t have “the courage,” which means they also probably don’t have “the wisdom to tell the difference.”)
A friend recently woke her brother on a Sunday morning, telling him, “We’re going to church.” He replied, “Why can’t the church come to us?” A very good question, I think. My friend replied, “I guess God doesn’t make house calls.”
From Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Man is a stream whose source is hidden. Our being is descending into us from we know not where.”
Martin Luther King Jr., quoted at a recent Unity Temple service: “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.”
In The Bucket List, Morgan Freeman tells Jack Nicholson that the ancient Egyptians expected two questions after they died and prepared to enter the afterlife: “Have you found joy in your life? Has your life brought joy to others?” Good questions.
Canadian philosopher Jean Vanier, founder of the L’Arche movement, from an interview broadcast on Speaking of Faith (7 a.m., Sundays, on WBEZ), which I highly recommend: “The big thing for me is to love reality, not live in the imagination … but to love reality and then discover that God is present.”
One Trader Joe’s employee to another as they stocked the shelves a few days ago: “2010 better rock or I’m going to be very upset.”
Amen to that.