- Oct 2023
Acknowledgement: Great thanks to Chris Aldrich who saw the Quote Investigator article about the saying “We shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us”. Aldrich notified QI of the germane quotation examined in this new article. Aldrich pointed to its presence in “Walden”. This led QI to create this article and to update the existing article.
I'm responsible for a quote investigator article being rewritten! Huzzah!
Cross reference my note: https://boffosocko.com/2023/05/22/men-have-become-the-tools-of-their-tools-henry-david-thoreau/
- Sep 2023
Even though I commented earlier i have to side with Chris. A ZK is best suited for argumentative and essay like work, not creative one like poetry.Maybe this is something that we need to discuss as a community as hole: it’s seems that a lot of people try to fit their needs to a system that (in my opinion) it’s neither intended or works for those kinds of projects.
reply to Efficient_Eart_8773 at https://www.reddit.com/r/Zettelkasten/comments/16ad43u/comment/jzaas4l/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3
Though depending on your needs and desires, you can really do both to effectuate the outcomes you'd like to have. The secret is knowing which affordances, structures, and methods suit your desired outcomes. (Of course if you're going to dump your box out and do massive rearrangements or take large portions out and want to refile them for other needs, then you're going to have to give them numbers and do that re-filing work.)
I've seen snippets of saved language in Thoreau's journal (commonplace) which were re-used in other parts of his journal which ultimately ended up in a published work. As he didn't seem to have a significant index, one can only guess that he used occasional browsing or random happenstance delving into it to have moved it from one place to another.
As ever, what do you need and what will best get you there?
Link to:<br /> What Got You Here Won't Get You There
- May 2023
But lo!men have become the tools of their tools. The manwho independently plucked the fruits when he was hun¬gry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a treefor shelter, a housekeeper.
This quote is fascinating when one realizes that the Thoreau family business was manufacturing pencils at John Thoreau & Co., one of the first major pencil companies in the United States. Thoreau's father was the titular John and Henry David worked in the factory and improved upon the hardness of their graphite. https://hypothes.is/a/sm7LUpazEe2tTq_GhGiVIg
One might also then say that the man who manufactured pencils naturally should become a writer!
This quote also bears some interesting resemblance to quotes about tools which shape us by Winston Churchill and John M. Culkin see: https://hypothes.is/a/6Znx6MiMEeu3ljcVBsKNOw
Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; or, Life in the Woods. First. Boston, MA: Ticknor and Fields, 1854. http://archive.org/details/waldenorlifei00thor.
- Jan 2023
Among other things, I have traditionally used my Journal to think out loud to myself about my work in hand: the progress I’m making, the problems I’m encountering, and so on. Many of my best ideas have arisen by writing to myself like this.
Richard Carter uses his writing journal practice to "think out loud" to himself. Often, laying out extended arguments helps people to refine and reshape their thinking as they're better able to see potential holes or missing pieces of arguments. It's the same sort of mechanism which is at work in rubber duck debugging of computer code: by explaining a process one is more easily able to see the missing pieces, errors, or problems with the process at hand.
Carter's separate note taking and writing journal practice being used as a thought space or writing workshop of sorts is very similar to the process seen in my preliminary studies of Henry David Thoreau's work in which he kept commonplace books and separate (writing) journals which show evidence of his trying ideas on for size and working them before committing them to his published works.
A lovely quote I ran into this morning, perhaps for a future 3 pack, potentially featuring Thoreau, Thoreau and writing, Thoreau and nature, the Concord writing group, etc., etc.:
"Might not my Journal be called 'Field Notes?'" —Henry David Thoreau, March 21, 1853 via The Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 1837-1861. Edited by Damion Searls. Original edition. New York: NYRB Classics, 2009. https://www.amazon.com/Journal-Thoreau-1837-1861-Review-Classics/dp/159017321X/
There's also another writerly tie-in here as when he returned to Concord, Thoreau worked in his family's pencil factory(!!), which he would continue to do alongside his writing and other work for most of his adult life. Replica Thoreau factory pencils anyone?!
Given the fact that he was an inveterate journaler as well as someone who who kept multiple commonplace books, perhaps a tie-in to a larger journal or commonplace book format product? (I'm reminded that the famous printer, publisher and typeface designer John Bell published blank commonplace books along with instructions from John Locke on how to keep and index them. See an example: https://www.google.com/books/edition/Bell_s_Common_Place_Book/3XCFtwAACAAJ?hl=en )
At a minimum I'm pretty sure we all want this Thoreau quote on a Field Notes brand t-shirt...
Thanks for all the years of solid design and great paper!
Warmest regards, Chris Aldrich
Might not my Journal be called “Field Notes?”
—Henry David Thoreau, March 21, 1853
to heaven. I see that if my facts were sufficiently vital and significant,—perhaps transmuted more into the substance of the human mind,—Ishould need but one book of poetry to contain them all.
I have a commonplace-book for facts and another for poetry, but I find it difficult always to preserve the vague distinction which I had in my mind, for the most interesting and beautiful facts are so much the more poetry and that is their success. They are translated from earth
—Henry David Thoreau February 18, 1852
Rather than have two commonplaces, one for facts and one for poetry, if one can more carefully and successfully translate one's words and thoughts, they they might all be kept in the commonplace book of poetry.
The definitive scholarly edition of the Journal is being published insixteen volumes by Princeton University Press in their series TheWritings of Henry D. Thoreau. To date, seven volumes are in print,each costing around $100; the material not yet in book form isavailable online atwww.library.ucsb.edu/thoreau/writings_journals.html.
he Journal of Henry David Thoreau, 14 vols., edited by BradfordTorrey and Francis H. Allen, was first published in 1906 and iscurrently in print in a two-volume edition from Dover Books,photoreduced but easily readable; it was also reprinted by PeregrineSmith Books in 1984 with volume introductions by Walter Harding andincluding a lost volume first published by Perry Miller asConsciousness in Concord in 1958. Any of these editions is highlyrecommended for the reader who wants 6,000 more great pageswhere this book came from.
Unabridged versions of Thoreau's journals, though note editing of some.
Finally, I should say that this abridgment does not claim to beobjective. I chose passages for inclusion not necessarily because oftheir importance to Thoreau’s biography, or to cultural or naturalhistory, but because I liked them: the book is shaped by my personalproclivities as much as by anything else—a preference for berryingover fishing, owls over muskrats, ice over sunsets, to name a few atrandom.
Fascinating to think that Damion Searls edited this edition of Thoreau's journals almost as if they were his (Searls') own commonplace book of Thoreau's journals themselves.
Like any journal, Thoreau’s is repetitive, which suggests naturalplaces to shorten the text but these are precisely what need to be keptin order to preserve the feel of a journal, Thoreau’s in particular. Itrimmed many of Thoreau’s repetitions but kept them wheneverpossible, because they are important to Thoreau and because theyare beautiful. Sometimes he repeats himself because he is drafting,revising, constructing sentences solid enough to outlast the centuries.
Henry David Thoreau repeated himself frequently in his journals. Damion Searls who edited an edition of his journals suggested that some of this repetition was for the beauty and pleasure of the act, but that in many examples his repetition was an act of drafting, revising, and constructing.
Scott Scheper has recommended finding the place in one's zettelkasten where one wants to install a card before writing it out. I believe (check this) that he does this in part to prevent one from repeating themselves, but one could use the opportunity and the new context that brings them to an idea again to rewrite or rework and expand on their ideas while they're so inspired.
Thoreau's repetition may have also served the idea of spaced repetition: reminding him of his thoughts as he also revised them. We'll need examples of this through his writing to support such a claim. As the editor of this volume indicates that he removed some of the repetition, it may be better to go back to original sources than to look for these examples here.
(This last paragraph on repetition was inspired by attempting to type a tag for repetition and seeing "spaced repetition" pop up. This is an example in my own writing practice where the serendipity of a previously tagged word auto-populating/auto-completing in my interface helps to trigger new thoughts and ideas from a combinatorial creativity perspective.)
Sometimes, Isuspect, he copied his own words because he liked to copy: no one’scommonplace books could run to a million words—those are just theones that survive, in addition to a two-million-word Journal, andenormous quantities of other writing—without a sheer love of sittingwith pen in hand, a printed book and a blank page both open before
Jan. 22. To set down such choice experiences that my own writingsmay inspire me and at last I may make wholes of parts. Certainly it isa distinct profession to rescue from oblivion and to fix the sentimentsand thoughts which visit all men more or less generally, that thecontemplation of the unfinished picture may suggest its harmoniouscompletion. Associate reverently and as much as you can with yourloftiest thoughts. Each thought that is welcomed and recorded is anest egg, by the side of which more will be laid. Thoughts accidentallythrown together become a frame in which more may be developedand exhibited. Perhaps this is the main value of a habit of writing, ofkeeping a journal,—that so we remember our best hours and stimulateourselves. My thoughts are my company. They have a certainindividuality and separate existence, aye, personality. Having bychance recorded a few disconnected thoughts and then brought theminto juxtaposition, they suggest a whole new field in which it waspossible to labor and to think. Thought begat thought.
Henry David Thoreau from 1852
Thoreau, Henry David. The Journal: 1837-1861. Edited by Damion Searls. Original edition. New York: NYRB Classics, 2009.
- field notes
- associative thinking
- idea crystallization
- repetition in writing
- scholarly editions
- Princeton University Press
- only one commonplace
- commonplace books
- Damion Searls
- love of writing
- note taking affordances
- note taking as aide-mémoire
- writing for understanding
- writing process
- Field Notes
- combinatorial creativity
- spaced repetition
- writing advice
- Henry David Thoreau
- associative trails
- lost in translation
- note taking
- idea links
- Feb 2022
We need to getour thoughts on paper first and improve them there, where we canlook at them. Especially complex ideas are difficult to turn into alinear text in the head alone. If we try to please the critical readerinstantly, our workflow would come to a standstill. We tend to callextremely slow writers, who always try to write as if for print,perfectionists. Even though it sounds like praise for extremeprofessionalism, it is not: A real professional would wait until it wastime for proofreading, so he or she can focus on one thing at a time.While proofreading requires more focused attention, finding the rightwords during writing requires much more floating attention.
Proofreading while rewriting, structuring, or doing the thinking or creative parts of writing is a form of bikeshedding. It is easy to focus on the small and picayune fixes when writing, but this distracts from the more important parts of the work which really need one's attention to be successful.
Get your ideas down on paper and only afterwards work on proofreading at the end. Switching contexts from thinking and creativity to spelling, small bits of grammar, and typography can be taxing from the perspective of trying to multi-task.
Link: Draft #4 and using Webster's 1913 dictionary for choosing better words/verbiage as a discrete step within the rewrite.
Linked to above: Are there other dictionaries, thesauruses, books of quotations, or individual commonplace books, waste books that can serve as resources for finding better words, phrases, or phrasing when writing? Imagine searching through Thoreau's commonplace book for finding interesting turns of phrase. Naturally searching through one's own commonplace book is a great place to start, if you're saving those sorts of things, especially from fiction.
Link this to Robin Sloan's AI talk and using artificial intelligence and corpuses of literature to generate writing.
- Aug 2021
Henry David Thoreau's commonplace book digitized in the New York Public Library Digital Collections
- Jul 2021
Ralph Waldo Emerson, the man who encouraged his friend Thoreau to start a journal and the man who had the most success with the journal > lecture > essay > book method, kept elaborate notebooks just for indexing his other notebooks.
- Mar 2020
Henry David Thoreau's, "Resistance to Civil Government, or Civil Disobedience"
Vaclav Havel's, Letters to Olga
- Jul 2019
this latitude; that a man may use as simple a diet as the animals, and yet retain health and stren
Gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism, is the over-indulgence and over-consumption of food for fun or as "a status symbol" (Wikipedia). In this statement, Thoreau is stating that a man's diet can be simple and he can still be healthy and strong. This statement reminded me of gluttony, because I feel like today people over-eat for luxury or because they can, when really, our diet can be "as the animals."
Wikipedia Contributors. “Gluttony.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 May 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gluttony.
The wind that blowsIs all that any body
This statement reminds me of the unpredictability of nature and of life. We cannot predict what life will bring and we certainly are not all-knowing. Therefore, as Thoreau says, "the wind that blows is all that any body knows."
w them. On the 1st of April it rained and melted the ice, and in the early part of the day, which was very foggy, I heard a stray goose groping about over the pond and cackling as if lost, or like the spirit
Thoreau uses description and narration here to paint a picture of the natural world around him, the sounds and imagery. I found it interesting that he compared the cackling of the goose to the "spirit of the fog."
e names of. I would rather sit ona pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion. I would rather ride on earth in an ox cart with a free circulation, than go to heaven in the fancy car of an excursion train and breathe amalariaall the w
Here, Thoreau is explaining that it is better to be comfortable and healthy, than to be indulgent in luxury but be compromised of his free space and clean air. By this example, he is again stating his position that we should not strive for luxury and that it is ok to live simply. Why be "crowded on a velvet cushion" if you can be comfortable "on a pumpkin"? The same logic applies to luxury purchases in today's world. Why buy a Tesla and be drowning in payments if you can be comfortable in a Honda? Thoreau's comparison is just as true today as in was in 1854. If something serves the same purpose, we should chose the one that meets our needs, not our unrealistic desires.
It is the luxurious and dissipated who set the fashions which the herd so
This is very true. Celebrities are huge trend-setters and with social media, their influence is more powerful. Why are people so quick to jump on the trends and follow them so diligently? Why do we try to be like the "luxurious and dissipated" and give them authority to influence? Overindulgence does not lead to more happiness. In the end, the rich and poor have the same fate. We do not carry our riches to the grave.
o anticipate, not the sunrise and the dawn merely, but, if pos
It is interesting this paragraph truly gives nature a persona, describing very complexly a simple topic about anticipations.
for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do
When I read this sentence, I quickly related it as being directly opposed to the infamous quote by Hippocrates, "Desperate times call for desperate measures." I think Thoreau is trying to convey that with wisdom, desperation is not an option, so "desperate times" do NOT "call for desperate measures", and adversity is clearly not be an excuse for lacking in wisdom and good judgement.
Finding that my fellow-citizens were not likely to offer me any room in the court house, or any curacy or living any where else, but I
This sounds to me like he wasn't very successful at the time he decided to go into the woods, and maybe feeling like he was tossed aside, maybe even a little bitter, and therefore ready to get away from society. Sounds like a typical case of stress.
discontented, and idly complaining of the hardness of their lot or of the times, when they might improve them.
He is speaking of people who are unhappy, yet do nothing to make themselves happy, and still have to audacity to gripe about it
eds. Public opinion is a weak tyrant compared with our own private opinion. What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or
This one is so true and timeless. All that really matters is what we think of ourselves and that ultimately makes us who we are.
of him. The finest qualities of our nature, like the bloom on fruits, can be preserved only by the most delicate handling. Yet we do not treat ourselves nor one anot
I felt this to be a very powerful sentence. He's asking why we put so much stock and care into material things instead of each other, and our world.
Most men, even in this comparatively free country, through mere ignorance and mistake, are so occupied with the factitious cares and superfluously coarse labors of life that its finer fruits cannot be plucked by the
I feel that Thoreau is saying that a lot of people just "fall in line' in everyday life, and do what is expected of them, that they can't really enjoy or even entertain a different way of life and they don't even know what they are missing.
- #economy #thoreau #walden
URLinst-fs-iad-prod.inscloudgate.net/files/6873df2b-bc78-4a8d-9db6-a10ec0b6a801/Walden excerpts - economy.pdf
- Apr 2017
How inexplicable are these facts on the ordinary view of creation! Why should the brain be enclosed in a box composed of such numerous and such extraordinarily shaped pieces of bone? As Owen has remarked, the benefit derived from the yielding of the separate pieces in the act of parturition of mammals, will by no means explain the same construction in the skulls of birds. Why should similar bones have been created in the formation of the wing and leg of a bat, used as they are for such totally different purposes? Why should one crustacean, which has an extremely complex mouth formed of many parts, consequently always have fewer legs; or conversely, those with many legs have simpler mouths? Why should the sepals, petals, stamens, and pistils in any individual flower, though fitted for such widely different purposes, be all constructed on the same pattern ?
Reminds me of Thoreau:
We might try our lives by a thousand simple tests; as, for instance, that the same sun which ripens my beans illumines at once a system of earths like ours. If I had remembered this it would have prevented some mistakes. This was not the light in which I hoed them. The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment! Nature and human life are as various as our several constitutions. Who shall say what prospect life offers to another? Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant? We should live in all the ages of the world in an hour; ay, in all the worlds of the ages. History, Poetry, Mythology!—I know of no reading of another's experience so startling and informing as this would be. The greater part of what my neighbors call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behavior. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well? You may say the wisest thing you can, old man—you who have lived seventy years, not without honor of a kind—I hear an irresistible voice which invites me away from all that. One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.
Reminds me of Darwin: