Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Moleskine’

How to Think

In Life, Memoir, Nature, The Examined Life, Wisdom on May 9, 2018 at 8:00 am

Moleskine notes

Three weeks ago I left southern Virginia, west-bound. Today I entered Mountain Time. And I saw a Western Kingbird. I must be heading in the right direction.

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I’ve spent a lot of time, years even, contemplating how to best live. But the real question is not How to Live, but How to Think. Everything follows our thinking, including our happiness.

“A man is as miserable as he things he is.” ~ Seneca.

Conversely, is a person as happy as he or she thinks they are?

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“At the break of day, when you are reluctant to get up, have this thought ready to mind: ‘I am getting up for a human being’s work…I am going out to do what I was born for…plants, birds, ants, spiders, bees all doing their own work, each helping in their own work, each helping in their own way to order the world…do you not want to do the work of a human being…to follow the demands of your own nature?” ~ Marcus Aureluis

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Man in restaurant behind me just returned his water because it had a lemon in it. “Oh my god,” said the waitress. “I’m so sorry. And I totally brag about our water too,” she said.

I must be in California.

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It is late in the afternoon and the sun is low. Lucy is asleep beside the river. I am thinking about something Seneca said: plunging oneself into the totality of the world. What does that mean, I wonder? I don’t know precisely, but it must have something to do with the flight of the terns over the lake this evening. It must have something to do with the way the bark of the willow over there is gnarled. And yes, it must have something to do with that fish who just pierced the surface and the rings that are radiating toward me. Yes, that must be it. The totality of the world.


Tools of Paying Attention

In Creativity, Life, The Examined Life, Wisdom on February 22, 2013 at 6:00 am
Journals, Diaries, Notebooks

Journals, Diaries, Notebooks

The action of paying attention is best practiced with a tool. The musician and his keyboard, the photographer and her camera, the meditator and her cushion, the writer and his notebook. There is an acuity of experience when traveling a city with a camera in hand that, without, is otherwise absent. All the tools of paying attention function this way: they enhance and, when loved properly, force experience in bold directions. Love is not too strong a word. There is not a devoted musician alive who does not love her instrument.

I once observed a master naturalist in the field make sketches and take notes which later in the day, around the fire, were  transcribed into elegant observations and artful renderings of the day’s work. Paying attention is a two-step process. Most people do not understand this. First comes the observation, then the transcription; first comes the practice, followed by the performance; first comes realization, then implementation. First you wash the dishes, then you stack them and put them away.

Susan Sontag, in an essay reviewing the career of Roland Barthes, wrote “[Barthes work] even begins and falls silent on the same subject–that exemplary instrument in the career of consciousness, the writer’s journal.” Let me repeat: “that exemplary instrument in the career of consciousness.” The journal as exemplary instrument. For the writer, the journal is the tool best loved. The landscape photographer loves her wide-angle lens, while the pianist loves the action of the Steinway. The tools of paying attention are as numerous as the ways in which we choose to practice the craft of paying attention–for that is what it is, a craft. If you become really good at it, great perhaps, you become the artist. Be mindful, however, there is no art where there are no tools.

One might aspire to great things–but one must, to be a realized being, aspire to something beyond the adequate. (Note: might is optional, must obligatory.) To aspire does not make it so. There is no course of human accomplishment that does not require a fashion of tool. This was lost on me for many years, as I was not, until recently, fully educated in the career of consciousness. I pass along this knowledge in the hope it will save you time. Good luck.

And have a nice weekend.


Sunday Repost: Moleskine Notes, May, 2010

In Creativity, Life, The Examined Life on February 10, 2013 at 6:00 am

Getting on a plane, holding my roller bag as I step in. I notice very attractive flight attendant. I look at her and smile. She smiles back. “You know,”she says, pointing to my bag, “that has wheels on it.” Well, duh, I think. “Yes, I know,” I reply. “I prefer to carry it down the aisle.” “Oh,” she says. “so does my dad.” I literally form the word “ouch” in my mind.

“There is more to life than increasing its speed” ~ Gandhi

“It is the only thing we can do, Klaus. I see no alternative. Each of us must turn inward and destroy in himself all that he thinks he ought to destroy in others.” ~ Etty Hillesum, on her way to her death, at age 29, in Auschwitz.

Dream of Life ~ Documentary on Patti Smith (see it)

Jim Harrison told Peter Phinny: concentrate on the writing. Get that right is all.

The four questions of Kant: ~ What can I know? ~What ought I to do? ~ What may I hope? ~What is man?

My project: sort according to themes? But what are the themes?

Life was a matter of opinion, according to Marcus Aurelius.

“At every moment, step by step, one must confront what one is thinking and saying with what one is doing, with what one is.” ~M. Foucault, 1983

Tuesday, August 29, Avignon, France: Got up around 9. Breakfast until 10:30, reading the International Herald Tribune, sipping coffee, pressed at table. Then we walk the streets, shopping, cafe hopping. Get caught in downpour and make way back to hotel in the afternoon, sprinting from awning to awning. Read then nap as the rain falls. Window is open. Head out at 5pm, golden light. People watch, have dinner after night falls, outside under lamps. Beers. Last night, lights out at 11:30.

Moleskine Notes

In Books, Creativity, Life, Literature, Philosophy, Writers, Writing on September 6, 2012 at 6:00 am

My moleskine.

So sorry for yet another repost–but what is a traveler to do? I am left with no recourse: Here is a favorite post from April, 2011.


I was approached by a panhandler this morning as I walked across town. He hit me up for a $5 spot. He was sober. Yesterday on Exchange, late in the afternoon, he hit me up for two bucks. He was drunk. To me the economics are simple: It takes five bucks to get drunk, two bucks to stay drunk. (I gave him a dollar.)

From a recent NY Times piece, Julian Schnabel: “Art is [my] religion.”

A note I made from an article in the The Wilson Quarterly: In the beginning of the 21st century social scientists showed that Americans have a third fewer non-family confidantes than two decades earlier. A quarter have no confidantes at all.

Not sure where this idea came from (but think/worry it is original): There are two types of men. Those who want to show you their penis; and those who want to be a genius.*

According to Camus, Sisyphus found happiness in meaningful work. [I made this note in two different places. It strikes a chord. The first, older, entry reads as follows.] Was Sisyphus, according to Camus, happy because he knew the secret to happiness to be meaningful work?

On a similar note, Melville wrote that we should “lower the conceit of attainable felicity.”

Joyce on love: “Love (understood as the desire of good for another)…”

From the diary of Anna Magdelena Bach: “Johann Sebastian said, ‘How simple music is, you just press the right key at the right time.”

Though not properly a note in my moleskine, this is worth sharing. My reader’s copy of David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King arrived yesterday. The first sentence is poetry:

Past the flannel plains and blacktop graphs and skylines of canted rust, and past the tobacco-brown river overhung with weeping trees and coins of sunlight through them on the water downriver, to the place beyond the windbreak, where untilled fields simmer shrilly in the A.M. heat: shattercane, lamb’s-quarter, cutgrass, sawbrier, nutgrass, jimsonweed, wild mint, dandelion, foxtail, muscadine, spine-cabbage, goldenrod, creeping charlie, butter-print, nightshade, ragweed, wild oat, vetch, butcher grass, invaginate volunteer beans, all heads gently nodding in a morning breeze like a mother’s soft hand on your cheek.”


*Lest there be any doubt, I’m the type of guy who wants to be a genius. Here’s hoping the distinction is mutually exclusive.

Friday Notes

In Books, Happiness, Life, Wisdom on April 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm

Friday notes (entries from aforementioned notebooks and journals):

“Unless a person takes charge of them, both work and free time are likely to be disappointing.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

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Entry dated 10.21.02 ~ Henry David Thoreau started his journal on this date in 1865. It grew to over two million words.

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Yesterday my friend Dingle told me that he woke up and thought: “Life is not necessarily about being happy.” And with that a month-long depression lifted. Which reminded me of a line I’d noted from the novel Prague Arthur Phillips: “John understood that some things mattered and some things did not and that the happy people in this world were those who could easily and rapidly distinguish between the two.” (p.188)

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“The prophet is a fool, the man of spirit is mad.” Hosea 9:7

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From a New York Times Book Review (10.5.2003) of Brenda Wineapple’s biography Nathanal Hawthorne, a Life: [Hawthorne] was constitutionally opposed to enthusiasm…”

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From a notebook entry of Bruce Chatwin: “Do we not gaze coldly at our clutter and say, ‘If these object express my personality, then I hate my personality.'”

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 Zen koan: The Master and the Grandmaster are in a boat going to an island. The master asked, “Is the water going or is the boat going?”

The Grandmaster answered, “The boat is not going and the water is not going.”

“Then what is going?” asked the master.

The Grandmaster held out his hankerchief.

“When did you become like this?” asked the master.

“For a long time,” said the Grandmaster.


Have a nice weekend. And thanks for reading.

The whirlwind about my head.

In Creativity, Writing on April 12, 2012 at 5:29 pm

What is to be done about the notes and observations, the history and thoughts, collected over the years, indeed, over the decades? It is a swirling whirlwind of muted information, everything I’ve forgotten but wanted to remember, just out of reach, a torment. Montaigne lamented that he read everything then promptly forgot it all. Like Montaigne, my mind is porous. I pour into it, and everything trickles out.

For those practicing the alchemy of turning experience into something–and that exactly is the trick–the content of our notebooks represents an archive of notions and ideas. Therein sleep our gestating projects, our dreams and most important observations. With love and patience and a practice spanning great lengths of time, we capture and compose these records. Yet they sit on the shelf, lonely sheafs, disrespected and forgotten.

The sorting and sifting is impossible. As a photographer who preferred film, I had a system. Sleeves of slides fill my cabinets, sorted by year and country and subject. If you asked me to print my night photo of the Prague Castle taken five years ago, the shot I took at 2:00 in the morning, in February, while standing on the Charles Bridge, worried that my film was going to freeze, I could put my hands on it in three minutes. But ask me where I stashed the note made while reading Moby Dick regarding Melville’s notion of happiness and I am lost. I am compelled to rectify this.

I have a project. A big project. And it represents a full and unconditional embrace of technology. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but the time has come to forsake feelings and get to work.

I began using Evernote a few months ago. I’m not going to explain it, other than to say it is the software by which I intend to take control of this matter. (I’ve linked it, you can check it out if you wish.) From my Mac to my iPhone to my iPad, it will all be there, at my fingertips, sortable and ready for use. And so, with the cracking of a stiff spine, I open the first journal and set to work.