Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Journal Sanctity Revisited

Journal Sanctity Revisited

Sunday morning my 12-year-old was leaving momentarily for Scout camp and remembered that he needed notebook paper for an essay he was to write; his crisis became mine. What did I have to give him, given the time? Would he accept pages from my new journal? Yes. Here was the problem: the binding on this journal was good and it took me some time to figure how to tear the pages. Also, I didn't like this desecrating feeling; removing even blank pages seemed wrong (this was a good journal). He was on his way, though, and I shall not miss the pages, torn from the back. Once again, though, a journal had been in a measure violated, and the questions persist: Why do I give of myself and then begrudge the giving? Why does "saying 'no'" sound so cliché, feel so vicious, but saying "yes," so unappealing? Why is the giving, even of unmarked pages (signifying future commitment?), a sacrifice? Why is what I mostly and always have to give most personal?

I should simply have been happy that I had something to give, and that it had been very much a symbol of myself: poetry, possibility, and commitment to an examined life.

This morning I wanted to write an affirming letter to someone; appropriate paper lacking (or so I thought), I removed journal pages again. Perhaps this act was softened, made more do-able, by having first given pages to my son. Ah, a self-sacrifice. But was it really? It was the beginning of one, but a bit too abrupt.

I didn't give the letter--perhaps the expression was for me; it was too fast, too much of the moment, perhaps; affirming, I hoped, to the intended recipient, but really more about needing affirmation--and I fear--defense of myself. Having written this letter on journal paper causes me to think on journals more: journals are practices for social expression; with thought and drafting, I can make a letter that is truly affirming and truly for the other. I had better get some tape and replace the pages (sorry, no acid free tape here).

To the degree that art is not just for its sake (Toni Morrison has discounted "art for art's sake"); to the degree that examining the life makes it more worth living (for whom? For all, I should hope); to the degree that a journal is sometimes hygienic and therefore a personal concern with a personal as well as public purpose; to that degree, a journal is a private endeavor that should maintain its own confidentiality and integrity, preparing our minds and words and world views to live well with other.

Private intentional writing, whether or not we intend it to be so, is social, for it influences our vision of ourselves and others. We cannot escape the other-effects of any of our choices, including, very much, our word choices.


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