On Journaling and Recordkeeping

I used to write in my journal all the time in high school, especially between when school ended and when my parents came home. The quietness and boredom of the house brought my inner thoughts into focus. Journaling, then, was my way of managing these thoughts, a way to force the mental torrent into a stream of discrete and lucid ideas.

To maintain a habit of journaling, it seems necessary to have a river of thoughts compelling one to pick up the pen. But the roaring torrent diminishes to a stream when the days get busier. The mind has other tasks to focus on. Responsibilities take precedence over introspection.

As I explored the mountains, valleys, and canyons of Zion, I felt a different tension keeping me from journaling: the desire for a pure and undistracted experience. Journaling, photography, and any other kind of personal recordkeeping place me in the reflective mode. Recordkeeping involves picking and choosing what to jot down, what to take a picture of, requiring that I sift through my immediate memories for the significant ones.

To reflect in this way is to view the present from an elevated perspective, which not only brings me out of the moment’s immediacy, but also transposes my attention from the external world to the internal mind. It seems a shame to dilute the raw and sensory impressions by notebook or camera. There will be time for that later when the day is done.

But at the same time, I want to capture the very experience I’m afraid of diluting, so that I can remember or perhaps even relive it. This internal conflict afflicts writers and those with literary or artistic sensibilities. Does an ideal balance exist between experience and reflection, between the possibilities of living in the moment and reliving the past?

Tagged under Essays