Where is Your Codex Vitae?

Is Codex Vitae a technical term for a part of your body or does it sound like a disease?  To answer that, I’m going to start you with Twitter, drag you through YouTube, and deposit you in a Book.

Twitter – What do you Seek?

Twitter receives a lot of criticism, but like everything else on the internet, the value is there if you take the time to look around. Think of Twitter as an almost endless series of doors. You open one door and if you don’t find anything of value, you can close it – but you might find another door there that is of more value to you.   It is through this exploration of doors that I have found a growing movement of people who don’t identify with ‘tribes’. They are open to listening to others they may not agree with. They have discussions and share ideas. Many of these people can be found at the Intellectual Dark Web Site.

It’s the great agony and the ecstasy of the Internet today. I think we have more great stuff to read than we ever have before, but of course the downside of that is we have more great stuff to read than we’ve ever had before.
– Robin Sloan –

What do You Want to Seek?

The QuipperyThe Intellectual Dark Web is populated by a number of individuals who have been vilified by those who identify with a ‘different tribe’. One of the more controversial figures in recent years is the Canadian author, clinical psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto – Dr. Jordan Peterson. A lengthy but extremely interesting summary of his thoughts is presented in this video: Dr. Oz interviews Dr. Jordan Peterson.

Dr. Peterson has written several books, does podcasts, and lectures about the value of having an aim in life. He has become the self-help guru for many young people who find they are unprepared for the realities of an adult world. What is ironic, to me, is that this same sense of ‘aimlessness’ sometimes happens to older people when they retire. Free time isn’t so free feeling if you’ve got a lot of it, and you don’t know what to do with it.

OK, now write for 20 minutes. Don’t worry about grammar or spelling. This isn’t a composition exercise. You get to have what you want three to five years down the road. What does your life look like, hypothetically? Write it out. That’s the first part. The second part of the exercise — now you’ve got your thing to aim at. You think, “well, now I’m motivated, because I got my thing to aim at.” It’s like, “you’re not as motivated as you could be, because you don’t yet have your thing to run away from. If you really want to be motivated, you want to be going somewhere, and you want to be NOT going somewhere else.”
– Jordan Peterson in a discussion with Lewis Howes-

Once You Have Found It

Last stop is a book. I just finished Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. This book is, to me, the ultimate intersection of old-world handwork, Old Knowledge, books, digital technology, fantasy and a Codex Vitae (which is the capture of all you’ve learned throughout your life – Jordan Peterson’s ‘what does your life look like’.)

In the book, and in real life, a Codex is a printed book. ‘Mr. Penumbra’s’  fictional character, Griffo Gerritszoon, was the real life Francesco Griffo who was born in 1450. The book’s character Aldus Manutius  was a real life printer and publisher. Aldus commissioned Griffo to cut the first slanted italic type. Aldus also invented pocket editions of books with soft covers and normalized the use of punctuation. The books fictional fifteenth-century font called Gerritszoon is perhaps the font we call Garamond – Claude Garamond worked with Aldus Manutius and Francesco Griffo.

By the end of Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore I had the answer to why, or what, ties me to blogging. This is my Codex Vitae – and I can only keep writing new chapters if  I am learning from all people, not just the ones that share my bias. I can only keep writing if I keep aiming for better and moving away from the person I don’t want to become.

How have you preserved a record of your life? Scrapbook? Calendars? Photo Album? Blog? Journal?

9 thoughts on “Where is Your Codex Vitae?

  1. Fascinating post. I’m going to have to read that book! I got involved in tracing/tracking my family genealogy after my parents died (in 2008 and 2012). I “inherited” the two historical photo albums my Mom had put together and became “curiouser and curiouser” about my family history (some of which, apparently, Mom had gotten wrong; the deeper you go, the more you learn). I’m taking the albums she put together (one with photos and basic info about her history and one for Dad’s) and reworking them as “stories with pictures”. I’m going to do the same with my own life – because I found it equally fascinating and sad that I knew so little about my parents before they were “my parents” (and not much about their parents and grandparents). I want my boys (and my grandchildren) to have the full picture of my life. It’s going to take awhile but I’m determined to record my life story before it comes to an end.


    1. That’s great Margo! Family Histories and photo journals are a wonderful way to both learn, and record, your past.
      I’m a big fan of the book, ‘Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore’. If you read the hard cover book, look carefully at the book jacket – it glows in the dark!


    1. When I find a few more puzzle pieces to put into my life puzzle, I also realize that you can ‘teach an old dog’ new tricks. Hope you keep finding new pieces too, Wendy!


  2. I thought you said this was long? I’ve never heard the term “vitae codex” so I learned something new. I’ve also added an icon on my iPad for the intellectual dark web and am always looking for help for old people who find they are unprepared for the realities of an adult world. ( me some days). Thanks. Info for Wednesday will be forwarded once I get it. 😊


    1. Was it always thus that old people are treated like they don’t belong – after a lifetime of trying to make their corner of the world a better place? Maybe blogging is a way for older people to record their Codex and connect with others who are feeling disconnected?

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      1. I agree. In many ways, my blog is an electronic diary that will remain long after I’m gone. In my ten years of blogging, I have gotten to know and met several other “nerds” and some of us are closer than we are with our neighbors. It’s an electronic Mr Roger’s Neighborhood.


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