We all keep something of field journal as we travel through life. In it we chart maps, we make observations, we note the things we know to be true.
We collect moments and press them like flowers in its pages. We place a stamp to mark the place we call home. We transcribe lines of music to capture the songs that we sing.
In many ways our field book looks like a dictionary, containing the definitions of the things most powerful to us. Things like ‘love’ and ‘strength’ and ‘freedom’. We make two-columned tables of concepts we believe to have clear opposites, like ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. We make lists with titles like ‘who I am’ and ‘who I am not.’
We bring this field book along on all of life’s adventures, pulling it out of our pocket and adding a new line each time we encounter something we’ve not experienced before.
In these books, we are taught that our strokes should be quite firm, notes quite permanent, definitions quite solid. That we should be unquestioning of its contents and secure in what we know to be true. That there is strength in the wielding of a pen.
But the problem with pen is that it’s permanent. And if we are paying attention, it is inevitable we will encounter things that don’t fit into the categories we’ve made. Things that push the line between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ or that contradict entirely the definitions we’ve kept for longer than we remember: That to love does not mean to own or to keep. That seeming acts of goodness can also be self-serving and selfish. That almost nothing can be condensed into just ‘this’ and ‘that.’
These encounters are a test of our ego. Because to recognize they exist is to recognize we were limited in our views, that there’s something more there, or that we were wrong all together. And I believe our reaction to these encounters is everything. That there are too many people in high places with pens clenched tight, unwilling to go back, re-read, and re-write. Unwilling to take a step in a different direction. Unwilling to sing a different tune.
But if you ask me, there is something stronger than the wielding of a pen. Something much more suited to the the filling of a field journal, to the note taking of life.
A pencil is versatile: a tip that can make marks both light and heavy, shaded or scratched, and an end that can erase them all together. A tool which embodies that what was true does not define what is true. That who we were does not define who we are. That a story can change in an instant.
Because to move through life with an open mind is to fill page after page without being too attached to the contents of any one of them. To be amazed and intrigued when something calls for our notes to be re-evaluated and re-defined. That the sign of curious heart is a field journal full of words and scribbles and sketches and very few solid lines..cover worn and pages crinkled from the constant practice of being pulled from a pocket and flipped through forwards and back.
To live is to change. That’s why I choose pencil over pen.