Time to time, I get asked: “Lukas what’s in your Black Books?”
When I’m attending a conference or a presentation, I use it to write down key ideas or items I want to follow-up on. For me, it’s more fun to write in a small notebook than to use a phone or an iPad.
When I’m in a pub or in a bar with someone, I often use it to capture snippets of wisdom or funny bits of conversation. Such as:
“I’m always happy to talk to you. Not like at work. At work I have to speak with intelligent people.” – Martin Hruzik in a conversation with us, his Toastmasters friends
“I don’t dream often, but when I dream, I dream big.” – Cezar Ilea about the future of Toastmasters in Romania
“Lena is the only girl in Toastmasters who has a boyfriend.” – author not mentioned. (Note: I can’t guarantee that Lena still does not have a boyfriend. I can’t even remember which Lena this was.)
It drives some people crazy and therefore it’s a fun thing to do.
But what covers most pages is a combination of notes to myself, ideas and memories.
Siphoning the Excess Thoughts
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you are familiar with the Pensieve. It is a tool used by the Hogwarts Headmaster and Harry Potter’s mentor Albus Dumbledore. Dumbledore explains its use (talking to Harry) as follows:
“I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind. (…) At these times, (…) I use the Pensieve. One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure.”
Siphoning excess thoughts from my mind. This is the magic in reading books. I often find in them my own vague ideas perfectly expressed.
As an illustration, below are three fragments from the my older Black Books:
Black Book I
Ljubljana, April 2010
“I am in Ljubljana for two and half hours, and so far I managed to check in to my hostel, get a map in the infocenter and taste two of three “budget” foods mentioned on WikiTravel – Burek and Horseburger. Well, it seems like tasting of local specialties is something I’m good at. I can praise myself for quality research.
Before having the horseburger I felt rather weak, but now I’m fine. I am sitting in Miklosicev park, walkman on my ears. I am observing local pigeons, they’re in a decently sized flock, about forty. They are walking in the park, evenly spread. However: The moment they spot a crumb, they all fly to get it and end up all on one huge pigeonpile. Unfurtunately, while eating burek, I crumbled a lot. I need to move away. Before it’s too late.”
Black Book IV
Prague, Summer 2012
“10 youngsters storm the tram. They are a bit loud. But not the usual “drunk mess”. They are somehow radiating pure joy. Wait, something strange is happening here. Oh now I get it. They are walking around the other passengers of the night tram with a board game called “Operation”.
When they arrive to me, I have to laugh. The task is to take out white pieces of paper from the (model) body of a patient with a pair of tweezers. They hand the pair of tweezers to me while they keep holding the “patient” and I get my attempt. The moment I almost manage to pick a piece of paper, they jerk with the “patient” (bastards!) and I miss. They roar with laughter. I can’t help but laugh too.”
Black Book XI
Prague, January 2016
“The tram is going too fast in the turns. Holding the parcel becomes a laborious task. The sender packed it too diligently. In the kebab bistro I manage to open it. But I see that every item is once again packed separately. Wrapped in local newspaper. Pressured by time, I hurriedly search for the most important item in the parcel – the envelope.
There it is. I draw it out from the box and put the lid back on. With my fingers numb with cold, I am opening it with the impatience of a teenage boy who is alone in a room with a girl for the first time in his life.”
Unlocking the Memories
I reviewed these notes just a few days ago. Like memories in Dumbledore’s Pensieve, they transported me to the moment they described. Because, back then, I had to take an effort to capture them in words, the memory traces got strengthened. Re-reading them, I could see the blue sky in Ljubljana. I could sense the refreshing air on the hot summer night coming into the tram through an open window. I could feel the string binding the heavy parcel cut through the skin of my fingers. All that despite the fact none of that was mentioned in the entries above. Each entry was just a tip of the iceberg. Each entry unlocked a memory.
Do you feel like trying it for yourself? Go for it. Just find a notebook that will comfortably fit in your pocket, pick a pen that you’ll enjoy holding and start writing.
Maybe one day, your future self will flip through the pages and will be touched, delighted and grateful. That’s how I feel about the Lukas who took these notes years and years ago.