YES-BOOK VS NO-BOOK (Un-Seeing Exercise)

YES-BOOK VS NO-BOOK (Un-Seeing Exercise)

Poets give each other weird gifts.  About ten or so years ago, a friend of mine gifted me with a chewy metaphor that I’ve gnawed on for a while now.

He said he thought that, at birth, every person got issued two infinitely expandable notebooks.  He said one of the books was a YES-book and the other was a NO-book.

I imagined them to be like the kind I use for making my journals but with automatic pages or something that appear as you write on them so you don’t end up with mountains and libraries of journals.

I don’t know how the things stay small enough for us to carry around but since the books are invisible, maybe they don’t weigh anything.

“March Journaling” by Hope via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
We carry these things around with us through all of our born days and as we live our lives the books fill up with hacks, tips, resolutions and conclusions that other people dump in there to help us suss out the world.

Often, these other-people blatherings are not particularly pertinent or useful, but, hey…they care.  That’s good, right?

The records of the explorations and adventures that each of us do along our own life-paths also end up in there.  Sometimes these quests of ours bode to be epic and huge.  Sometimes they are just trips to the grocery store that went sort of sideways.

“Library” by Christian Senger via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
According to my friend, each of us can consciously access our personal YES-book and NO-book and use the stuff in them to build the frameworks of our lives in ways that can work well for us.

He opined that the books affect us and the way we walk whether we refer back to them and look through them, ruminate and cogitate on what’s in them, and then do some move or other that adds more pages to either our own YES-book or NO-Book…or not.

They’re a bit creepy, those books.

Like a collection of maps and blueprints, our YES-books and our NO-books help us find our way.


As a metaphor, I thought the thing was pretty cool.

We all know people who have big YES-books and small NO-books.  They are always up for an adventure, always trying out new stuff, always opening every door and climbing through all kinds of windows and such.

Some of these people are absolutely unsinkable.  They’ve got the improv-thing down and they are magnificent change agents as well.

Others with the really big YES-books and very much smaller NO-books may tend to get sucked into all kinds of mishaps – sometimes interesting, but often dumb — and they may be prone to broken heads and hearts and things like that.

(Sometimes they seem to really be a bunch of airheads.)

“Yes” by Ged Carroll via Flickr [CC BY 1.0]
We all know people who have big NO-books and smaller YES-books.  They are good at not-doing.  They are really good at reading situations and getting the timing right.  They don’t mess up quite so much, it seems.

They’re often massively self-disciplined and canny as all get-out.  Mastery is their game and they’re on-focus.  They’ve got well-defined boundaries and Teflon shields and some of them can approach a relentless sort of awesomeness.

If the NO-books get huge and the YES-books get tiny, some of these folks seem to end up living lives that are pretty small and often circumscribed.  The boundaries turn into walls and moats or even cages.

Sometimes they seem pretty fearful of the world and they may not like to do much of anything different than what they already do.

They may be a lot judgmental and not so much fun to be around.  They may be prone to misunderstanding other people’s moves and motives and they also tend to be misunderstood, it seems.

“No!” by duncan c via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
And then there are the ones who have YES-books and NO-books that are sort of equally balanced.  They seem to be really interesting sorts, I think.

yes and no
“Yes and No” by A. Charlotte Riley via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]


The way I figure it, the individual YES-books and NO- books are our own contributions to the mystical, magical big ol’ library popular with the woo-woo contingent since the time of the Theosophical Society (which started in 1875 or so).

That library was dubbed the “Akashic Records.”

The Society assured their neighbors that the ideas they espoused were old ones that actually date back to a lot of early Theosophists, especially the Greek and Alexandrian Neo-Platonic philosophers who were around since the 3rd century CE.  Whatever.

If you don’t know about the Akashic Records, click on the button below for a very well-done and even-handed treatment of the thing.  It’s a 2019 post shared on Medium, and was taken from the blog Holisticism.


As a book freak, I’m picturing a vast library – bigger than the fabled Library of Alexandria on the southern coast of the Mediterranean in Egypt.

I confess that I have a fondness for the historic Library at Alexandria.  There’s a video from TED-Ed that tells the story, What Really Happened To the Library of Alexandria.”  The script for it was written by educator Elizabeth Cox and it was animated by Inna Phillimore.  You can click on the title of the video to access it.

“NOT the Library at Alexandria” by Katarina via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
My own imaginary library goes on forever, backwards and forwards until now (and maybe even into the future).  There are books and scrolls and other story-carrying devices and vehicles that just hang out there.

These days there are probably laptops and electronic gadgets in there too.

I imagine that a lot of the writings in the ancient books and things in that old library have faded away or are inaccessible somehow.  Maybe there’s been damage by water and fire and worm.  Maybe the words are written in old and forgotten languages that we can’t understand.

“Biblio” by Mark Morton via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
I can get thoroughly mind-boggled by the whole concept.  Hee!

I like the thought that I’m one of the contributing writers to the thing.  I don’t even have to apply seat to chair and turn on my brain.

I just have to keep on doing whatever it is I am doing in this old consensus world and my Yes-book and my No-book write their own selves.  YIPPEE!  (Talk about a writer’s fondest dream!)

“Journal” by Prab Bhatra via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]


If the Yes-book and the No-book each of us carries are actually metaphors for the mindsets we hold to, hone, and practice from day to day, then the whole thing makes a kind of sense.

Your Yes-book contains all the foundational stuff for all of those character traits that mamas and daddies, as well as other favorite elders and teachers, BFF’s, motivational speakers, writers, life coaches, and other support people tend to focus on.

Your passions and your loves, your curiosities and your dreams, your obsessions and your attractions tend to take up a lot of space in there.

The rules-of-thumb in your YES-book help you to learn and to grow, to cope with change, to be flexible and resilient, to endure and persevere, and on and on and on.

“Yes” by Jeremy Brooks via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
Your NO-book includes all the shadows — your own as well as other people’s.  In there are warnings of life’s dangers, trials and tribulations.  All of the hard lessons adversity and not getting what you want have taught you find their way into that book as well.

All of your denials and refusals to see things as they are find their way into your NO-book.  So do all of your anger and resentments, the guilty secrets and miserable failures and mistakes…and pain – lots and lots of pain.

The rules-of-thumb in your NO-book are very useful, I say.  They can help you avoid making the same old dumb mistakes you always seem to gravitate towards.

In fact, those rules-of-thumb can help you make new, improved mistakes that take you to much more interesting places that can help you scrub off some of the extraneous gunk that keeps your sorry self from shining brighter.

“no!” by Hasin Hayder via Flickr [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]
I could go on for days about this.  I won’t.

I’ll just ask a couple of questions:

  • Which book are you adding to in your life?
  • Which are you looking through and learning from?

“Nourishing the Fire” by Dennis van Zuijlekom via Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Here’s a poem:


I told her I do not forgive.

I told her I never forget.

And that confused her

(It was so NOT-P.C.)


So then I told her my own truth,

And I’m not sure she got it,

But, hey, so it goes….


I told her

Forgiving feels like I’m obliged to smile and say,

“Oh, never mind, I don’t care.

Step all over my face; I’ve got a spare.”


Forgetting feels like I’m supposed to shrug and tell the world,

“It doesn’t matter, not at all.

Do what you like; this is Liberty Hall….”


Well, I am not made like that.

I’ve lived too long, gone through too much

To set aside the who-I-am

For the who you think I “should” be.


Your “forgive” feels like a glib and facetious lie,

Like I’m handing out one more

Permission slip in a long line of them

To folks who (let’s face it) are careless.


Your “forget” feels like I’m supposed to

Numb down, closing off my heart,

Squinching down into small

So everybody can go on being comfortable.


Your forgive-and-forget anodyne

Seems to me a happy-pill of great price

And I won’t pay for it.


I’ll choose to stay wide open, thanks,

When every nerve is screaming “stop”

And every neuron wants to make a run for it

And my back is all crawly from anticipating

Yet another stab from a traitorous un-friend.


This is not a simple thing,

To stop the pain of trust-betrayed

From swallowing up your loving heart.


To just let that whimpering thing lie there,

Throbbing, seeping out blood,

Requires a firm willingness to wait

Until the hurting subsides and the healing starts.


It takes a while.


Stopping your raw, torn heart from

Shrinking into a nubbin and

Keeping it from scurrying away to hide

In some dark corner is a practice of a lifetime.


The shadows will not claim me.

I will not back down.


I’ll take my heart and warm it in my hands.

I’ll let it sit there, leave it open to life’s vagaries.

I’ll whisper to it and encourage its defiance,

Urging it to move and dance with the changes as it can.


I’ll stoke its willingness to flow where it must,

And when it is ready, when it grows strong again and firm,

I’ll take that heart of mine and

Launch it one more time into the sky.


I plan to keep on doing that until it flies.



I don’t forgive,

And, no, I won’t forget.


I’m too busy, okay?

by Netta Kanoho

Header photo credit:  “Journey” by Mattia Merlo via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]



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Thanks for your visit.  I’d appreciate it if you would drop a note or comment below and tell me your thoughts

12 thoughts on “YES-BOOK VS NO-BOOK (Un-Seeing Exercise)

  1. adamecker says:

    I really enjoyed the read.  I loved the layout of the article and I really enjoyed the flow, the arguments for and against.  

    In this digital age the No book is often just convenient.  

    Personally I am a yes book person.  You cannot change the feeling it gives you to sit down with a proper book.  To immerse yourself within the pages.

    1. Thanks for your visit and for sharing your thoughts, adamecker.  I am glad you enjoyed it.

      Please come again.

  2. Hi Netta,

    You truly make me happy reading through your blog. What an amazing blog. Every image is just awesome and appropriate. 

    I am a “yes” person and my husband is a pure “no” person. My child is a mixture, maybe more on the yes side. I loved these lines. They are healing lines for life and living. 

    Your poem is tough and I can feel things. It is truly engaging to deal with real life. Here are my favorite lines and will remember as I move out from this page.

    “I’ll take my heart and warm it in my hands.

    I’ll let it sit there, leave it open to life’s vagaries.

    I’ll whisper to it and encourage its defiance,

    Urging it to move and dance with the changes as it can.”

    Thank you, so much. 

    1. Anusuya, you make me smile.  Thank you!

      Please do come again.

  3. Parameter says:

    I always look out to reading from your creative desk. I agree that we carry our “Yes” and “No” book around. And this book determines our output.

    It affects virtually everything we do. We are constantly looking back at our books to carry out the next action. You are right to describe the book as a collection of our maps and blueprint

    1. Welcome back, Parameter.  I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      Please do come again.

  4. I really enjoyed your yes-book versus no-book article. This was quite fascinating and revealing for me.

    I think when I was much younger, I was definitely a yes-book person, which got me into countless problematic situations. When the yes-book is full, it is boundless in its curious quest.

    But as I’ve matured, I’m now more of a no-book person erring on the side of caution. But that doesn’t always make for a lot of happiness in day to day life.

    After reading your thoughts and that awesome poem, I can see where I need to get back in touch with those yes-thoughts and move to a more balanced place. 

    1. Lee, I am so pleased that the post helps you take another look at your yes-book.  I’m a great believer in yes-books and an even bigger believer in following your own curiosity!

      I love your thought that “when the yes-book is full, it is boundless in its curious quest.”  It feels that way for me too.

      And, yeah, you’re right.  “Problematic situations” are the price of admission, but, hey…all that means is you get to learn possibly useful heuristics (rules-of-thumb), life-hacks, and skill-sets that lead to other adventures. 

      You may also collect some great stories along the way to share with your heart-people and other folks.

      Thanks for the visit and for sharing your story.  I do appreciate it.

      Please do come again.

  5. What a beautiful and thought-provoking metaphor! The idea of each person having two infinitely expandable notebooks, one for YES and one for NO, is both intriguing and a little unsettling. It makes me wonder what kind of things I’ve unconsciously written in these notebooks throughout my life and how they’ve affected my decisions and actions.

    I love how the metaphor allows for the possibility of conscious access to these notebooks and the ability to use their contents to build frameworks for our lives that work for us. It’s empowering to think that we have the agency to choose which pages we want to add to each book and how we want to use them.

    The idea that some people have bigger YES-books and smaller NO-books is particularly interesting. It makes me reflect on my own tendencies towards adventure and risk-taking and whether they’re balanced with enough caution and restraint.

    Overall, this metaphor is a beautiful reminder of the power of storytelling and how our own personal narratives shape our lives. Thank you for sharing it!

    1. Anoth, I’m really pleased the metaphor resonated with you.  I know, right…unsettling!  And a very useful way to check on the way you’re walking.

      Please do come again.

  6. Wow, this was a really interesting read and I think more people should see this. 

    The metaphor used for comparing our lives with a ‘Yes’ book and a ‘No’ book is quite engaging and I really liked it. Personally, I think that I am in between, half ‘Yes’ and half ‘No’. I feel that sometimes I should bring in my ‘No’ book a bit more, but I feel that where I am right now is good and I would not change it.

    1. Thanks for the visit and for sharing your thoughts, Markis.  I am so glad you found the post interesting.

      Please do come again.

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