Thursday, February 17, 2005

Filing System

Twelve days without a new entry! That's unacceptable. A friend recently wrote me to request that I just put something out there. He's right! This is no way to run a blog. I promise to do better. Michael Chabon said that there are three keys to being a good writer: luck, talent, and discipline. The last key is the only one you can control. So, I proceed on now with greater discipline. . .

I could offer many excuses for my lack of discipline in writing. Ultimately it all goes back to last week when I decided to channel my energy and discipline toward a project that I have put off for quite some time - unpacking my boxes of files. When I moved to Fort Smith in 2003 I packed my entire office into 12" x 12" x 12" white boxes. I loaded these into a forty year old U-Haul trailer (no, I didn't get the one with the alien from New Mexico painted on the side) and hitched it to my 1990 Oldsmobile. I made the 12 hour drive and unloaded this jam-packed trailer into my new office. At first, I unpacked the most important boxes, but one pile of boxes remained unmanaged for over a year in a corner of my office. These were the dozen or so boxes containing my file folders that needed to be unpacked, reorganized, and put away into new filing cabinets.

I have been putting the project aside because I knew that I could not just finish it in a few hours. These files have been with me for over fifteen years. I cannot simply unpack them without combing through them to find treasures from the past. This is exactly what happened. Sometimes I spent thirty minutes reading through a single file folder and reflecting on the journey that started at that moment and brought me to this moment. I readily confess that this is not an efficient use of time, nor does it meet with the principle of having a filing system which is to organize information. That's not why I keep a filing system. My filing system is more like a storehouse of memories or a scrapbook.

I dug up some goodies too! I rediscovered the old science-fiction story from Omni magazine that I copied at the ACU library on the night I just couldn't study Hebrew verbs any longer. I found the copy of the 19th century report on the rediscovery of King Robert the Bruce's grave in Dunfermline Abbey. This report was given to me by the curator of the Abbey during my second trip to Scotland. (It is an interesting story that I may share some time - and just wait until you hear where they finally buried the King!) There were other files that brought back less thrilling memories. These files contain documents that map the stories of difficult times, tragedies, and mistakes in the lives of people I have met along the way. I read through each of these compelled to pray for the people - wherever they may be now.

I was not distracted only by the renewal of memories. I was also preoccupied by the need to expand my categories. Many of the old file holders bear the same labels I affixed to them fifteen years ago. In my recent inventory and reorganization I was confronted by the inadequacy of these categories. I had to develop new ways of naming and recalling the documentary detritus of my vocational voyages. So forgive me for being engrossed in my personal inventory project last week. The new appreciation for old experiences and the expansion of my categories was hard work, but I think I am the better for it. At least my office is less cluttered.

1 comment:

John O. said...

I've been putting off organizing my files for years now. I can't imagine what all I might find there. One of these days.