Since we have considered our anti-whetstones, let’s discuss what our whetstones are. Jonathan Mayhew says:
Spain is my whetstone. Maybe one of my whetstones, because the blog is too; other conferences I might go to. My Thursday tertulia can act like that as well, though the conversation tends to be more social than intellectual there. Without this one has “one thought less, each year,” so to speak.
A whetstone is an activity, an experience, or a person that makes your mind sharper, gives you a heightened consciousness of the life of intellect, and helps you generate new ideas. My major whetstones are:
1. Spending time with my sister. She has a very intense professional and intellectual life and being around her makes me think faster, move faster, and want to achieve as much as she does.
2. Airports. The crowds of people, the constant movement, the sense of new arrivals and departures, seeing all of those people on the go, moving with a sense of purpose really inspires me and makes me think more clearly and with a better sense of direction. Also, the airplanes soaring into the skies make me want to soar intellectually, so to speak.
3. Malls or big department stores. I’m fairly starved of sensory impressions in the small town where I live. There are too few people, too few changes, everything is always the same, repetitive, routinish. At least, at a mall there are crowds of different people, objects with different textures that I can touch, various new smells I can inhale.
4. Big cities but not the ones like St. Louis that are empty and dead. Only the cities where there are crowds of people outside day and night.
5. Conferences sometimes. But not nearly often enough. One conference that really charged me up was the one where a very interesting performance artist from Latin America gave a talk and showed her art.
So ideally, I would take an airplane to meet my sister somewhere in Berlin or Barcelona to go to a department store together and then visit an exhibition of modern art. That would totally result in a whole new book project or at least a few articles.
What are your whetstones?