A Personal Dictionary is an ongoing journal in dictionary format. It was begun in 1986 and the first edition ended September 1, 1996. This version is the 4th edition (2004) and has been expanded considerably, now containing over 1200 defined terms. For a dictionary the notion of completeness is not applicable. For a thinker, that is, for one who resists the lure of systemizations, thinking also never comes to completion. And so, the dictionary format would appear to be well-suited for expressing the activity of thinking.
This project originated as an effort to limit the annoying phenomenon of continually returning to thoughts where I had been before... instead I desired to go further, to go elsewhere and otherwise. As such it is not so much an attempt to impose order on thought as it is to allow thinking to set out into new areas from stable landmarks. In such a book as this editing is more of a problem than usual for the reason that many of these thought-paths are still being cleared. I choose to include such entries rather than editing or deleting them because I think it is rare that the process of thinking is made available to a reader (this is not to say that this process is entertaining, informative, or even understandable). Increasingly I find that thought is an unwelcome witness, a suspect citizen, in the obscure mass of mere acts… and its entire being has become nothing more than an attempt to bear multitudes that will never bear it in return.
I have described the contents of these pages as paths of thinking;
Hannah Arendt is more precise: they are the paths saved by thinking.
thoughts that come to us
are worth more than the ones we seek.
- Jospeh Joubert
What, as a thought, was not already a function within life,
is thought untruthfully.
- Karl Jaspers
You can free yourself of an object, of a face, of an obsession...
You cannot free yourself of a word.
The word is your birth and your death.
We speak to break our solitude;
we write to prolong it.
- Edmond Jabès
We must act. It would be enough to become conscious of what is happening
to one, and to keep an account of one's mind, to have a little notebook
and to write: Today I lost so much ... a little poetry, a little of the power
of my mind. I accepted. I merely accepted!
- Paul Valéry
I have made you too feeble to climb out of the pit,
because I made you strong enough not to fall in.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Choose the good solitude.
- Friedrich Nietzsche