Friday, October 27, 2017

Keeping Waste Books is no waste of time

“Everyone is a genius at least once a year.  The real geniuses simply have their bright ideas closer together.

This choice aphorism is one of hundreds of snappers and astonishers to be found in the journals of the German polymath Georg Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799). If you have any doubts about the long-term value of journaling, take a look at Lichtenberg’s lifelong practice. He journaled thoughts, observations and wittcisms, starting in his student years, in notebooks that he called his Waste Books (Sudelb cher). 
    He borrowed this term from the English accounting houses of his day. For English bookkeepers, a “waste book” was a temporary register of transactions, jotted down in rough form before being entered in meticulous copperplate in a formal account book.
    I like the throwaway quality of the term. It encourages us to get down the scraps and the rough sketches, without concern for form or structure or even spelling. 

Some more choice one-liners from Lichtenberg's Waste Books:

"A book is a mirror; if an ass peers into it, you can't expect an apostle to look out."

"People who have no time usually do nothing."

“Don't judge a man by his opinions, but what his opinions have made of him.” 

“A person reveals his character by nothing so clearly as the joke he resents.” 

“Where the frontier of science once was is now the center.” 

“The most dangerous of all falsehoods is a slightly distorted truth.” 

"One has to do something new in order to see something new."

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