[NB] Thoughts while Crossing the Great River

A powerful urge last night just to gather together all of this and take a picture, put in front of myself the trajectory of this long trajectory of writing I have been involved with. It looks a little mad, doesn’t it?

A number of notebooks of varying size and quality arrayed on a striped pink and purple bedspread.

The top row begins somewhere in 1993 and those numerous, tiny notebooks were filled in front to back, then back to front. They are crammed with thoughts, excerpts from books, quotations of people that I knew, drafts of poetry (some of it is, well, let’s say not terrible; philosophy absorbed my poetry and nowadays I tend to only use poetry as a gesture in my thinking, to tell myself to change my speed, alter my rhythm). I had one of those on me almost all the time.

The journal with the Hebrew on it was also from this time, intended for more deliberate and aphoristic observations; I was in college and reading a little too much Nietzsche, what can I say? I keep it around to remind myself of being 20. Heck I keep most of those around more as reminder. A lot of water between me and that person. I can still see myself in them, so that’s something, but young me was so overheated. Child, cool off a little.

Those little drugstore spirals peter off as I begin grad school ca. 1998, but pick up again with the red notebook with the typewriter ca. 2000. Those are less cluttered affairs and more deliberate. I wasn’t carrying them around with me, I was sitting down and writing out short reflections. I had a small desk and seat in my closet in grad school and I would go in there, pull the door shut, and just write. Those carry me through grad school and into my marriage. I was also emailing myself notes, too, so who knows how much is buried in some now defunct aol account–there are some littered pieces of it in my current gmail. I never quite liked that quite as much, though.

A couple of larger brown spirals are gaming notebooks. I was running a D&D game at that point and had several places I would spill out ideas that I could pick up or abandon as needed. In retrospect, more than a few of those ideas were half-glimpsed or poorly understood spirit chatter, images which would return more robustly when I stopped trying to put them to use.

The collection isn’t perfect and there are definitely gaps, a substantial one after those larger journals. There were several small notebooks when I resumed my habit of carrying one with me more frequently, probably 2005/2006. Those were more like the college journals, but less heated. They also contained the notes I made from the first time I had a diloggun reading. Casualties of the separation and divorce. (Not shown, a larger journal where I recorded later diloggun readings, still with me; now also with some Quimbanda notes.)

The small moleskines pick up about the time I received the guerreros, back around 2007, I think. They are organized into three basic sets. The first 16 are all broadly identified in my mind with that period of awkward proximity to Ocha surrounding Afolabi, though the series itself extends well-past his death. There are a couple of small softcover moleskines that aren’t journals like this but spirit journals of sorts, dreams and visions, hints and allegations. The larger moleskine was a more technical record of operations. After a while, it seemed a little precious, so it isn’t a full journal by a long shot.

After that, you have a series of another seven small moleskines, the current series. I have thought of them loosely as the Jerusalem series, because of a series of dreams that redirected and refocused my thinking. The seventh, with the pen, is my current one, though it only has a couple pages left. I’ll probably be starting the eighth within the week.

All of the moleskines are deliberately less crowded affairs, with line spaces between full thoughts and sketches, with the backs of every page luxuriously left blank, though I think once in a blue moon I’ll make a note on a facing blank page in response to an old thought. I can carry them easily, pocket them awkwardly, and they serve both quick note and modest reflection.

The large white three-ringed binder contains many of my geomantic readings, several featuring efforts to better understand specific spiritual intelligences and operations, the sort of readings to which I returned as I deepened my understanding of geomancy.

There is a long thread of geomantic history and experimentation wound through all of the moleskines, too, all bound up with spiritual cosmology and practice, but not just that. Still, I tend to think of the journals as ‘serious’ thinking. I do have one more recent gaming notebook, a little fat spiral affair that I bought for a little Blades in the Dark game I ran a year or few ago. It got picked up an repurposed recently for Troy Chambers’s recent goblin seminar.


I pulled Gilles Deleuze’s Regimes of Madness of the shelf and dipped in and out of several short pieces in the collection. He has been on my mind a lot lately and over the last month or two I have read through portions of Thousand Plateaus, “Of the Refrain” being the most striking of them, where I found myself better understanding the section in dialogue with some work on Bantu cosmology.

Cosmology. “Of the Refrain” makes cosmology breathe again, makes it more than a parade of dead physics and returns it to a mode of life, a way of opening a dialogue between our objective circumstances and our subjective capacities to transform those circumstances.

When I first came across Deleuze around 1996, I was still waist deep in the thicket of Jungian psychology, exploring latter-day Jungians like James Hillman and Thomas Moore, when I came across Thomas Moore’s book on sadism. Moore’s book was so peculiar and charming to me and I wondered if anyone had done anything else quite like it. Digging through the library turned up Deleuze’s Coldness and Cruelty, unlike anything I had known before, just blew my mind. I wanted more of whatever that was.

I found Thousand Plateaus (with Felix Guattari) and decided I should read something about this Jacques Lacan fellow he talked about, too. I spent a summer poring over their books, a notebook at my side, writing out stretches of text longhand that I wanted to return to after I checked the books back into the library.

Beside each quotation, a handwritten diagram, a little doodle. There were series of doodles, each one a variation or expansion of the preceding until I felt compelled to start a new series. I had already been exposes to sigil magic at that point, but this was something different, I was trying to capture something about trajectory of the text in the doodles, was trying (a little incoherently) to diagram a play of forces each quotation enlivened for me.

A college-ruled notebook sitting against a blanket, open to a page with scrawled notes, each preceded by a doodle.

Thought as part of a play of forces, a play that joined subjective and objective, broke them out into new patterns and possibilities. I look back at myself then and I think, “not bad, kiddo” (and I can hear the voice of dead man in those words, not mine, but mine now). A lot more out there, but not a bad place to start.

Another image of the same notebook above.

I cried when I found out Deleuze had already killed himself. Sometimes the work of the dead seems to shine with their passing, call out for attention in ways it would not while the author still drew breath, and I wonder if some of my discovery had to do with that shining forth of the recently dead Deleuze. When Jacques Derrida came to speak at a conference on Jean-Francois Lyotard, I went to see him more for Deleuze than anything else, because I wanted that chance to touch the moment that they all participated in, however sidelong.

Deleuze and Guattari wrote a beautiful, short piece together, “May 68 Did Not Take Place,” and, yeah, I guess that’s it.

I still believe in it, though, still have faith in what didn’t take place to find its way into places, still believe we can give it occasion to take place.

So, back to the notebooks, back to the dikenga, back to the vectors of forces. Nostalgia is only worth so much. I have been quiet and will probably be quiet, but I’m moving along in my corner. I hope you all are, too.

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