My favorite class at UCLA was a "professional schools seminar" on Medical Ethics. I took it at the end of my freshman year and it was a taught by a med school professor named Dr Gabriel. Since there were only 15 students in the class, we were able to have great discussions and Dr. Gabriel was a modern-day, very serious Socrates who would ask probing questions and let us wrestle with important issues. Each week, we were assigned articles to read on a particular difficult medical issue (e.g. comatose patients; babies born addicted to crack) and after we discussed the issue in class (it was a 3-hour class) he took us into the hospital to actually see real patients suffering from these conditions. It was an amazing, sobering experience in which we connected the theoretical with the practical, real world. I remember one young woman in the class got particularly emotional and nearly fainted on seeing a poor little, prematurely born crack baby.
In addition to facilitating an excellent class, Dr. Gabriel required that we all keep a daily journal about what we did each day and the various things we thought about. He said that he's been doing this for decades and that he found it to be "one of the most worthwhile and rewarding parts of my life...." I suspected this was just hyperbole, but I've become a believer in journalling and have been doing it pretty consistently over the last 13! years since I took that class.
Here's why I do it:
- Invaluable records and memories. One of my most prized possessions is the journal I kept in Hungary in 1999-2000, and, in particular, the entry on December 7, 1999. (Isn't that when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor?...) This entry records my first impressions of meeting a young 22 year-old girl named Agi Toth (I was 26 at the time) and I was clearly smitten and genuinely overwhelmed after our very first conversation. If there is a fire in our house, I will try to grab this--and other journals--before anything else. (By the way, the risk of fire or theft is a compelling reason back up the digital contents on your computer remotely (and remotely is the key). We use Carbonite for back-up and highly recommend it.)
- Modern blogging promotes community with friends and family. I personally really enjoy reading friends' blogs and I feel I'm able to keep up with them even if we haven't talked or seen each other in a while. What's great about Vox (and probably some other blog services) is that I can restrict who can read what I'm writing. In the several weeks that I've been doing this Vox blog, I've found that I still do some personal entries on my own but for the most part, I do want to share what's going on with friends and family.
- A younger generation probably will appreciate it. I think it's pretty cool if our kids, or grandkids, were ever curious about what "Dad or Grandpa" was up to back in 2006 in his early thirties, they could check it out online.
- Spiritual and intellectual benefits. I've found that the process of writing brings lots of clarity to me when I have a bunch of thoughts swirling in my head. It gives me a way to think through issues and come to conclusions. Writing often takes a lot of mental concentration, but this ends up being satisfying too because pretty much everything that is worthwhile in life takes genuine effort.
Allright. I'll stop there (maybe will add to this list in the future). Later!