Monday, March 9, 2020

Taking Notes

Nearly every positive result in my life came from taking notes.

I walked into a Colombian restaurant at age 19 and was overwhelmed. Still, I managed to order and eat. And it grabbed me. So as I left, I took a takeout menu in order to study dish translations, to note the ones I'd tried, and to circle items that sounded good. On my way home I jotted down the names of a couple other good-looking places nearby.

So that's how that started.

To this day, when people tell me about great places, I don't just make dead eyes while fake-perkily intoning "Ooh, that sounds great!" as if it was of no personal interest to me. I write it down. Plus, I actually go. I get in a car and drive and go and eat - and note good-looking places nearby (following up on those, as well). That's a lot of activity for a member of a species incapable of action! As I wrote here:
Most people do nothing. If they sign on, they won't show. If they pledge money, they won't pay. If you hire them, they'll sit in their cubicle and sip coffee. You know how most soldiers never actually shoot at people? How as few as 30% perform all the kills? I've decided that this isn't a saving grace of humanistic morality. It's just another example of how most people do nothing.

I'm not saying they're lazy. I'm not saying they're liars or deadbeats. Just that they do nothing. Most people do nothing. I think of them as the Zombie Army.

One day a musician friend, who I didn't particularly respect, told me about a jam session he'd gone to, which wasn't particularly great. And it was an hour away, in a dangerous area. I didn't just nod my head. I got out my pen. And the very next week I went to this jam session (because I was looking for opportunities to play and to network), where I impressed the crowd.

25% of my lifetime musician earnings stem from that night.

If I hear about a great movie or book or CD, I write down the tip, and I actually search (sometimes waiting years to find a bargain - I organize libraries and wish lists via the "Pedia" series of Mac apps, as described here).

To most people, this all seems obsessive. If you idly drop a movie name into conversation, you'd never expect me to actually go see it, much less launch upon a long-term quest. I seem like Rain Man! Jesus, Jim, don't you have a life?

Yeah, I do. This is it. This is my life. I'm the guy who pays attention, and takes notes. Why? Because the stupidity and the drek and the cruelty and the shiny crapola are directly in my face, 24/7. I don’t need notes for any of that. But if I'm to enjoy my residency on this planet, I'll need to work for treasure hunting. Not just with food, but in every realm I care about (and even a few that I don't).

To most people, my meticulous follow-up seems eccentric and ludicrous. But if I were to search my house, my computer drive, my memory, and my thought stream, most of it is fruit from the note-taking tree.

It's not "obsessive" if it improves your life. Pejorative terms ought to be reserved for failed tactics. 
Are we all obsessive breathers?

Naturally, when offering tips to others, I'm very careful with what I recommend and to whom I recommend it. The last thing I want to do is send someone on a wild goose chase. That would violate professional courtesy.

But when I do, almost no one takes notes. At best, I'll elicit a perky "Ooh, that sounds great!", as if it were of no personal interest to them.

I worry about whoever put these astonishingly beautiful trees here which we ignore and cut down and pee on and walk right past with our heads down like they were nothing. All the myriad unappreciated lasagnas and concertos over the eons pale in comparison to our arboreal ingratitude.

As I wrote here:
We humans shuffle through our blinkered existence, lost in mental drama, amid this gorgeous paradise planet, a miraculously lush sanctuary in a coldly inhospitable universe, blessed with trees (if trees had never existed and sprung up overnight, people would be driven insane by the beauty) and life-giving oxygen and sunshine and delicious food and refreshing water and all the immersive storylines we could dream of, all of it tailored to our every need (including our need for challenge, violence, and heartbreak) and permeated with heartbreaking love. Yet we scarcely notice. We're jaded, bored, and impatiently awaiting Something Better. We live in eternal anticipation - of our next big win, of momentary gratification, and of the arrival, finally, of "The Answer". We pray for help and then spurn the responders. We even actually have the gall to demand a messiah.

Yet not once have I heard a voice blasting down from the skies: "Attention ungrateful shitheads! How about taking a look at those trees for just like two seconds?" There's never a trace of whining about our endlessly oblivious lack of appreciation. God (or whatever) is like a stoic silent grandmother perpetually serving insanely delicious soup to ungrateful family members lost in fake mental drama who distractedly trudge out of the kitchen with nary a word or smile....yet she quietly feels deeply satisfied knowing that, at some level, they've been nourished.
Until you or I produce anything remotely as wonderful, we have no right to feel harumphy when our offerings fall on dead ears. I bear this closely in mind.

Still, when I offer someone a tip - tacos or whatever - and they they don't take notes (just dead-eyed stare + ”ooh, that sounds great”) I find people as eerily inexplicable as they find me spending hours tracking down some book my dentist said maybe I'd like. Why aren't they writing it down?

I certainly wouldn't insist. Nor can I feel slighted, because trees. But it puzzles me. I'll never understand why people don't take notes.

Speaking of "pejorative terms should be reserved for failed tactics" (an idea I explained from a different angle here): if you do something - anything, really, from mopping to talking on the phone to building bookshelves - while some immense mooing cow stares at you, said cow will deem you "manic". To the multitudes of phlegmatically complacent pud puds, engagement seems like mania. It's imperative for engaged people to dodge that gaslighting.

Same for "over-intensity", a term used by the flaccid to gaslight those who give a damn.

And don't get me started on "Unhinged".

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