Zettelkasten Forum

Time Well Spent?

edited February 2023 in The Zettelkasten Method

Zettelkasten, a tool for the mind,
A place to capture thoughts of every kind.
A sea of cards, with notes that flow,
Helping to organize, a world in a show.

The time we spend, a precious cost,
To scribble down, the thoughts we've lost.
But with each card, a rabbit hole begins,
A journey deep, of knowledge wins.

We delve and dive, in search of truth,
The links we make, a web of proof.
But hours pass by, and what do we find?
We've wasted time, with our method combined.

Yet still we persist, in this quest we trust,
The thrill of the hunt, a must.
But remember, dear friend, to balance the scale,
With breaks in between, lest our time bewails.

So let's not waste, this gift we hold,
With Zettelkasten, a tool to mold.
A path to wisdom, in every note,
A journey of discovery, and time well devoted.

I'm particularly worried today. How do you feel when you read the poem? And I'm sure you know who wrote it.

Post edited by Edmund on

Edmund Gröpl
Writing is your voice. Make it easy to listen.


  • In the land of productivity and drive,
    There lived a man with a curious vibe.
    He'd waste his hours away,
    Jotting notes down each day,
    With a tool called Zettelkasten, a shrine.

    The man was captivated, it's true,
    By the way his thoughts he could construe.
    He'd categorize and compile,
    In a way so neat and so mild,
    That he felt like his mind was anew.

    He thought that this method was divine,
    A way to help him stay in line.
    But his friends and family feared,
    That his time was simply cleared,
    And that he'd never again truly shine.

    And yet he pressed on, day by day,
    Organizing thoughts in a grand display.
    But as the months and years went by,
    He realized with a sigh,
    That his time he had cast away.

    So now he reflects on that time,
    And wonders if it was all a crime.
    For though his notes were so neat,
    His life was incomplete,
    And his time with Zettelkasten a mime.

    Edmund Gröpl
    Writing is your voice. Make it easy to listen.

  • edited February 2023

    Doggerel removed due to uncontrollable mortification.

    Post edited by ZettelDistraction on

    GitHub. Erdős #2. CC BY-SA 4.0. Problems worthy of attack / prove their worth by hitting back. -- Piet Hein.

  • @Edmund said:

    For though his notes were so neat,
    His life was incomplete,

    "We gather a repertoire of concepts and ideas from the enduring, challenging experiences we witness. We collect, remember, reinterpret, and rearticulate them among others. The record evolves through ambiguities and interpretations, and through confronting the complexity we cannot escape....

    "Our work is to ask good questions and communicate with others as they ask their own questions, similar to ours, and yet different as well. Our imminent future lies in the exercise of public imagination to address the unfinished aspects of both our private and common lives. This means finding a voice, and finding a place and a way to speak among others....

    "We are unfinished: When I speak to audiences of professionals, or address gatherings of readers in libraries, or docents in museums—and always when I speak to students in professional schools—I remind them that our thoughts and questions are never finished; given our lengthening lives, they have no end we can see. Our lives, I tell my audiences, are configured by the unfinished issues we have made our own by thinking and asking, reading and questioning.... If we feel them intensely and deeply, these closed doors and untried keys, our unfinished issues configure our lives and shape our wanting out of our deficits.

    "Unfinished issues and unfinished lives are at the center of useful and generative experiences in cultural institutions. Our wanting moves us there, we look for paths in response to our continuing motives, and we become different because we have found something that carries our thoughts and interests forward. The unfinished issues that drive us, the longings, will never be done with us, nor will we be done with them. This is as it should be: the knowledge that configures our thinking is not meant to be complete but to evolve in complexity and interest over time. We may address a question specifically or obliquely; we might find a new book or a fresh exhibition; we might hear a public radio interview that promises something relevant to ideas we have kept active for decades. We may find ourselves looking for scholarship, seeking expertise and conversation. Or we may find that an odd insight occurs to us when we do not expect it, a casual moment that creates a revelation.

    "When I list my own continuing, unfinished issues, it is an undisciplined, long list, and it includes the themes of the book in your hands: becoming an informed independent thinker, creating a reflective democratic society, and becoming something together in a common place....

    "If we wish to grasp the critical issues of our lives and argue usefully toward understanding them, I believe that we need to embrace complexity and ambiguity as the real conditions where we live and grow. As Csikszentmihalyi (1993) writes, '[A]bilities do not become effective unless developed through appropriate, socially constructed activities—that is, through patterned, voluntary investments of attention that result in learned skills. Complex skills are built up by complex activities' (p. 170). When we reject complexity for its opposite (not only simplicity but also ignorance and confusion), we embrace what Csikszentmihalyi calls 'psychic entropy', mindless disorder that impairs functioning and leads to dysfunction, fear, and rage....

    "Our questions will require us to linger, to think again, and then return to express new thoughts, tentatively but without fear, together. We will develop patience...."

    — David Wildon Carr (2011). "Unfinished Lives". In Open Conversations: Public Learning in Libraries and Museums (pp. 37–48). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.

  • @Andy Thank you for that quote from David Carr - it articulates something that has been stewing in my brain for at least a decade, maybe longer.

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