Sunday, November 29, 2015

My Brain on the Shelf


Late last night I decided to organize my "library", which is a single wall of bookshelves that I built in my basement last year.  I promised my wife I would confine my book collection to those shelves, which has become a problem because the shelves are already full.  Basically, that means for every new book I buy, I have to get rid of an old book to make room.

Around midnight, I realized that I hate this agreement because I am not very good at letting go of books.

Also, I realized that when I organize my library, I am really organizing my brain.  Through my library, I am able to catalog my thoughts along with my books.  You won't find anything even close to the Dewey decimal system, but you will find books grouped by topic, and a particular group of books will sit next to another group because I see a connection between the two.  For example, on one side of a shelf I have books about Art Education and on the other side of the same shelf are books about the development of creativity, and right between them are the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. Seeing the books organized in this way helps me visualize the connections between ideas that are occurring in my head.  In another section are books on the outdoors, leadership, and Scouting. These sit right below books published by Outward Bound, and above that are books on theories and practices of education. Again, they are all interconnected and their organization on the shelves helps me see patterns and relationships. There are also sections for religion, history, science, fiction, and many others.  There are a lot of books, each connected to one thought or thousands of thoughts, and sometimes it's really hard to find the right place for each of them.  And when the ideas in my head change, I find myself rearranging the books, sometimes moving whole sections and sometimes reclassifying only a book or two.  I try to make them fit, both physically and conceptually, on the shelves.  And when there is no more room, I have to evaluate which thoughts are worth keeping.

I realize now that I am not very good at letting go of ideas.

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