Underlining and Anchors
I used to hate underlining passages in a book. Without making a note of why I found it worth underlining, the passage marooned from meaning. Why did I underline that sentence in the first place? There had to be something in the margins to provide context.
So then I reread a book with those underlines with marginalia. Half of the time the marginalia gives me little to work from. (“Haha” – so I guess I found that sentence funny for some reason?) Others are so grounded in who I was at the time that my present self cannot even understand why I might have found it compelling in the first place. All of the emphasis on marginalia carried over little to future skimming. And maybe that is not what marginalia is for.
Lately I have grown partial to simply underlining. I don't rack my brain over leaving a comment. Even if I know not fully what I thought about a passage, the act of underlining it still comes back to me. I then find the underlined passage in question. Only then do I begin to think more about the passage, jot some notes down, turn it into a blog post. The underline was the most important part, not the thoughts attached to it. That was what set the deeper inquiry into motion
We need such anchors in this sea of words we find ourselves in. One has to be able to catch and release on a whim. On the web, annotation seems like such a well suited anchor. Like underlining, the act of annotating leaves me with a general impression of a passage I found interesting. Only after interrogating the passage beyond the annotation do I find meaning. But I could not have done so without anchoring myself at that point in that blog post, in that article, in that PDF.
Because you have to drop the anchor first. Then you start fishing.