Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Examined Life

My first journal was a green, spiral bound notebook I took with me on my first trip to Europe in 1973. I was touring with my Antioch College choir and thought it might be a good idea to record the trip. 


It was. In my na├»ve younger “be here now” self, I declined to take a camera and I regret that. Most of us 30 college students declined to take a camera, but thanks to Bruce England, there are a few photos of that most amazing time kicking around. But that journal was a camera of sorts and it kicked off a habit of simultaneously living life and reflecting on it that echoed through all the years that followed.


In the bookcase in my hallway are the 26 journals I’ve written to date, my little life and all my thoughts about it captured between those covers. I’m not only re-reading three of them now from another trip my wife and I took around the world in 1978-79, but selecting entries to include in a new book I’m writing about that trip. So in addition to being a chronicle interesting to me as to who I’ve been, who I thought I would become, who I became and who I’ve yet to become, it feels like with some careful editing and new writing from 2022, that trip might make an interesting book for others to read as well. Impressions of Europe, India, Indonesia, Japan and beyond in a time when travel was a different thing altogether.


Meanwhile, my wife and I also kept journals for our kids that they still cherish, occasionally looking back to see when they rolled over and what that 5th grade paddleball record really was and how we were feeling seeing them off to college.  They make fun of the way that I often began each entry with “it’s been so long since I’ve written here!” and my second daughter is slightly bitter than her sister’s journal is longer and a bit more complete.


I had hoped my older daughter would have continued the practice with her own children, but when it became clear she wasn’t, my wife and I have taken over that practice with the grandchildren. And I still often begin with “it’s been so long since I’ve written here!”


Now add to all of this my 12th year of a public journal in the form of this blog, last year literally writing the equivalent of one entry each day. My nine books and scores of articles reflecting my teaching practice. My annual lectures at the Orff Summer Course. My check-ins every two weeks with the Men’s Group over the last 32 years. It seems like I’ve taken Socrates to heart: “The unexamined life is not worth living.”


But have I overdone it? What would Socrates say about “the over-examined life?” Is there too much reflecting and not enough “flecting?”


Well, it’s not really my choice. It’s just how I’m put together and I might as well accept it. 

I’m reasonably sure I’ll write something else here tomorrow. After I write in my journal, the grandkids' journals (I really am overdue!), copy over a few more 1979 journal entries and then check in with the men’s group tonight. That’s my life, such as it is.


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