From Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin, to Oscar Wilde and Ralph Waldo Emerson, great thinkers throughout history did more than read the books they picked up. Many wrote and storedthe most useful, profound passages in something called a Commonplace Book—an easily review-able collection of wisdom and ideas for their personal use.
We humans forget much more than we remember. The Commonplace Book was a sort of outboard memory, a way to keep and revisit our most insightful insights. In the 18th and 19th centuries, these collections of wisdom were so popular that "commonplacing" was an actual term for the act of writing in your Commonplace Book.
Somewhere along the line, Commonplace Books retreated from popular culture, yet thankfully, never disappeared completely. A year and a half ago, I discovered and began to build my own based on the index card system of one of my favorite authors. Today, I'm 56 books in and have over one thousand index cards comprising my Commonplace Book. I recently filled up my first "shoe box" of index cards, a milestone that inspired me to finally write this article.
Leopold Huber is the founder Hippohelp—a new, totally free, map-based work trade website that can help you travel the world for a fraction of what your journey would otherwise cost. I absolutely love this site, it's navigable map feature making it the easiest work trade site to search for volunteer opportunities wherever you want to go.
Browsing the map on Hippohelp, I chanced to encounter Leopold's own farm in Guilin, China! Fascinated by this young entrepreneur turning his own soil in the Far East, I wrote and asked if he'd like to share a bit about his life and Hippohelp with readers of The Living Theory.
We all know some things are so small that we can't seem them. But what we often forget to consider is that some things are so huge we can't seem them either.
I would like to point out one of the latter to you.
This was a discovery years in the making. I encountered a piece here, a piece there, wondering for a long while what they meant in relation to each other. The first piece I picked up about three years ago reading one of my favorite books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. In all the books I read, I circle passages that I find useful or profound and write each down on a 3x5 index card after finishing the book. I have well over a thousand of these cards now. Most are useful or convey remarkable insight, but one particular card from this novel pointed to something mysterious, something I wrote down in hopes that I might one day understand:
Stop, just for a second, and ask yourself: "When's the last time I did something I had never done before?"
Really think about it... Do you have an answer?
Back in May, I went for a run in the heat of a summer afternoon in Phoenix. The sun cooked me as I coaxed myself along a six-mile route I'd run many times before, but never in such oppressive heat. Halfway through, I became woozy, increasingly unsure I could keep lifting my feet. I slowed to a walk, feeling like I might faint and immediately my face and hands were overcome with a tingling sensation of pins and needles. I staggered along for what must have been a couple minutes until the feeling subsided, then finished running the last few miles. It was the closest I had ever been to overheating. I've gone for a thousand runs, yet I'd never pushed myself that hard. I'd never experienced anything like it before.
In life, it's often your darkness that defines your light. The binds imposed on an individual's soul become the most satisfying to escape.
My dad's childhood took place in a rotating cast of apartments. Growing up he had to tread lightly, turn the volume down, and find somewhere else to play the drums out of respect for those living around him.
He dreamed of living in a house—a place where he could blast the stereo, where he could wale on his drum set, where he could live without constant filtration of his experience out of concern for others. While working full-time, he attended night school to become a mechanical designer. And after a couple years of work, he and my mom got their very own house.
They bought that house in 1989 and still live their today. He loves it.
While backpacking New Zealand earlier this year, I met a constant stream of new people. More than daily, I had those get-to-know-each-other conversations where topics of discussion circled around where you're from, what you do, how long you've been in the country, and other acquainting question and answer dialog.
These get-to-know-each-other conversations are vital in understanding another human being. However, after a few weeks, a hunger for more meaningful conversation grew within me.
I began to see this basic, everyday conversation as outer shell conversation that masked the inner shell conversation that we could be having of things deeper and more representative of who we are.
In life, we each get a few shocking, external events that shake us.Life-quaking events that cause us to stop and question, that force us examine our lives from another perspective. It might be losing a job we've long held, the death of someone close, or dancing with death ourselves, but when tragedy strikes, awareness often results.
A good analogy might be swimming across a great body of water.
We put our heads down in the water to swim. Stroke by stoke, we move along. We focus on making progress in the direction we're heading. And maybe we are making great progress in that direction! The problem is, we can't see where we're going while swimming with our heads down.
I just returned from 4.5 months in New Zealand. I added up all my expenses to find that I only spent $21 per day backpacking around both islands!
Among travelers, New Zealand is known as an expensive country, but approach it right, and it can be surprisingly affordable. Over 136 days, I spent $2,875 including flights and a week-long stopover in the Cook Islands.
In this post I'm going to lay it all out for you—what I did, why it was so cheap, and some tips for getting the best out of your own venture into "the land of the long white cloud."