NOTEBOOKS

The material below, not originally part of this 5th edition of my autobiography, has been added as an appendix. This appendix may be useful for future autobiographical, biographical and historical work. Since such a substantial part of my life has been spent compiling and utilizing notebooks in my teaching, my personal study and my writing, it seemed relevant to include this commentary on my notebooks in this 5th edition of my autobiography.

Notebook is the general name I give to each file that I have in my study and an adjoining spare bedroom. One can spend much time defining precisely what constitutes a file, a notebook, but I do not intend to do that here.1 I do that in several places in my literary resource base and especially here in this Notebooks: Volume 5. This Volume 5 of my Notebooks focuses on the Notebooks of other writers and provides an overview of some 300 of my own Notebooks.

Insensibly, after I completed the first edition of my autobiography Pioneering Over Four Epochs in 1993, and as the last 13 years since 1993 have run their course, I became aware of the importance of the Notebooks of other writers as models for my own and of the genre Notebooks to my literary products, to my oeuvre in all its forms. It was my hope that I might learn a few things from these other writers and define as precisely as I needed to do the concept of Notebook. This Notebook, Volume 5, attempts, as I say above, to place the Notebooks of other writers into some overview, some overall statement and perspective. After more than fifty years of keeping Notebooks of various kinds I am beginning to get a feel for their role in my life. In about 1950 when I entered grade one I produced a Notebook, but it was another 12 years before anything substantial, anything was created, that could, that might, in time, become part of an archival Notebook.2 Now, like shards of memory distilled from the past they provide scenes to be contemplated, tasted, savoured when it serves my purpose. Now, after more than forty years, these Notebooks have become a type of memoir which contains a dialogue with the mixed legacies of my life: religious, cultural, historical. For the most part, though, these Notebooks are not poignant or provocative; they are, rather, workmanlike collections, general repositories, of other people’s ideas and words.

Those who wrote autobiographies and memoirs in the Bahá'í community were few and far between. Those who did were content, for the most part, to write a short exposition what might become a chapter of a book. The closest I’ve come to notebooks is pilgrims’ notes. What I have tried to do in my autobiography with its poetry, notes, journal and essays is to do what Samuel Beckett did with his plays. He specified, not just the words, but the rhythms and tones, the sets and the lighting plots, and these specifications are preserved in the remarkable series of notebooks published by Faber and Faber. Where most great playwrights were content to write the text of a play, Beckett wrote the entire theatrical event. In some ways my autobiography is an entire theatrical event. As this theatrical event approaches some 2500 pages, this comparison of my approach to Beckett’s is, I think, apt.

I now have some 300 files or Notebooks and it has become tiresome to try and keep count. In the 44 years, my pioneering years 1962 to 2006, of keeping material that has become part of a Notebook somewhere in this vast collection of material, I have also discarded literally hundreds of Notebooks. This Notebook:Volume 5 should be of value to anyone interested in general perspectives, overall pictures, of my Notebooks. I realize that future readers may find some ambiguity in my use of the term Notebook. I apologize here for placing any individuals who take a serious interest in all of this printed matter in these difficult positions with respect to my terminology and the resources in question. But I am confident that, should anyone really be interested in these Notebooks, I have done an ample job of organizing my printed matter for any future historical value it might have, if any.
____________FOOTNOTES________________
1 Generally, though, I define a Notebook as an arch-lever file, a 2-ring binder, an A-3 manilla folder or an easy-glide desk file. Of course, within most of these different collecting points there are sub-files or separate Notebooks. If I considered these sub or separate sections as Notebooks there would be several thousand Notebooks in my collection.
2 The oldest document I created is an essay I wrote in the early months of 1962 in English class.--February 12th-March 4th 2006

UNPRECEDENTED DIGNITY AND EASE

It is by a continual effort that I can create....My deepest, most certain leaning is toward silence and everyday activity. It has taken me years of perseverance to escape from distractions....It is how I despair and how I cure myself of despair.-Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks, Penguin, 1970, p.276.

I tend toward ‘the work’ every minute
and can sit vacant staring at the garden
or some inane bit of TV or some vacuous
act for only so long without a feeling of
great emptiness invading which I must fill
with my ‘planned program’.* If this cannot
be done, I fill my own mind with my own
thoughts or some Passage. But, generally,
in a chaos of reading, silence and creation
I keep out a distracted, frenetic passivity
and a mountainous world of trivia as far
away as I can until necessity intervenes.

And then, then.... some holy simplicity,
some rest, plain mysterium, a feeling of
the numinous, a nothingness, an idiosyncratic
something that is incommunicable, gliding on
a sea of faith with reason resting in the wings,
the burning desire to seek enjoying a low
flame, quietly flickering, in a free zone
of some unprecedented dignity and ease.

12 January 1996

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