A Hardware Element to the Soul

January 23, 2019

A diary or journal doesn’t just reveal a person’s inner life. It helps create it, by structuring and deepening one’s ongoing dialogue with oneself.

We talk to ourselves (think to ourselves) all day long, never really realizing it. Much of what we think is inadvertent, poorly formed, and poorly remembered—a swirl of impressions and impulses half-captured in fragments of language. And in some way we are the experience of carrying on this conversation, for it deals with our recurring interests, our memories, our stories of ourselves and the world.

Writing brings the conversation more rigor. It focuses us, forces us to think about things until we’re satified with their representation in print. It helps us select only those thoughts we genuinely care about. It lets us capture ideas clearly and revisit them later, which can lead to new, nonobvious connections. It’s a deeper, more disciplined version of the ongoing dialogue that’s such a big part of who we are.

We’ve been cyborgs for some time now. If glasses, pacemakers, and hip replacements add hardware elements to the body, if books and cellphones add hardware elements to the brain, then writing adds a hardware element to the soul.