Monday, August 22, 2011

The Library

Giant SequoiaThe Library

I bet every town has a library. A place where books and tapes and papers are stored and can be seen and used. A place where you need a card to check stuff out if you want to take it with you. Where, because everything has changed, almost nobody goes anymore.

When I was growing up there was a big old building that was our town’s library. Where I live now there are still libraries – big ones and little ones. I remember going to the library as a kid, looking through the Dewey Decimal System catalogue (that’s a neat invention from 1876) that arranged things so you could look books up and find them on the shelves. And the librarians, and the reference rooms, and those big wooden tables, and the signs that said “NO TALKING” – these memories were forged over the years when going there was the only way to do research and get information.

And then along came the salesman selling first the World Book Encyclopedia, and a few years later the Encyclopedia Britannica (I learned to spell ‘encyclopedia’ by listening to Jiminy Cricket sing about it on Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Disney).

 But I digress… these encyclopedias started the long and unstoppable demise of the library. The reason I know this is because I sat next to a teenager on one of my recent train rides and while recalling memories of my teen years talked about my studies at the Library – he just looked at me like I was some old fart from out of the far reaches of the last century.  “What”, I asked, “you don’t go to a library?”  “Nope” he said, “got the Internet.”  And that’s that.

Hell, I look stuff up on the Internet all the time, and I Google or Bing constantly; but I can’t remember the last time I pulled open the drawer of the Dewey Decimal System. And just like that I’m starting to feel old, to feel like the old people I used to think were old when they used to relate stories about how things used to be when they were kids, to feel like the speeding train of time that I’m on is catching up with something I don’t want to acknowledge. Right about now I start thinking that the old people I’m talking about (and who seemed and looked really old back then) were about the same age then as I am now.  Wait a second, I’m getting dizzy here and need to sit down! Oy, where’d the time go?

Funny how something like this just sneaks up and surprises you, how once you start thinking about things like this your whole world gets shrink wrapped in a faded perspective, how you start yearning for the old days.  Stop right there!  The old days were good and they helped us become what we are in the present days.  The old days taught us a lot that we should now remember in the present days.  The old days are good when they serve as the foundation for the present days.  The Library, and that Dewey Decimal System, and today’s Internet are just a few of the things in our tool boxes – things that helped us live good lives then and continue to support us today. Because nothing stands still, progress and time keep marching on - it’s not how old we are but how old we feel.  I guess the trick is to continue to learn about and use all the tools that are available and which help us lead active and complete and fulfilled lives. There’ll always be something new and improved tomorrow, but those shouldn’t diminish the things we had yesterday because all of them together help us to be who and what we are.  No harm in remembering the good old things from days gone by – they served us well and certainly are grist for the mill of today’s stories.  So what I’m saying, in a long and roundabout way is do yourself a favor and visit your local library soon – it’s still pretty good and you never know what you might find there – a book, a memory or maybe even something unexpected.

My message this week is about the grandeur of all of the things, past and present that surround and support us:

Arte Nathan“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”  -John Muir

John Muir (1838 – 1914) was a Scottish-born American naturalist, author, and early advocate of preservation of wilderness in the United States. His activism helped to save the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia Nation Park and other wilderness areas. The Sierra Club, which he founded, is now one of the most important conservation organizations in the United States.

The beauty and grandeur of man made things are nothing compared to what’s found in nature. It’s the natural beauty that inspires us to create more wonderful things and spaces.  Look around your spaces and places today to make sure that they’re just what you need to strengthen your body and soul.  Is there order to the things around you – it’s not so much cleaning up as it is putting just the right things in the right places. Does the space nurture you or hinder your ability to be effective – having too little or too much is equally bad.  Do you bring the right energy and humility to your environment – don’t disrupt the natural flow by trying to force things that may not be right.  ake an effort to carefully create and maintain the spaces that you play in and pray in today.

Stay well!

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