Tuesday, January 31, 2012

more mongering

As a suggestive indicator of the intellect and its limits, I have always liked the notion of standing outside a local library.

Most libraries strike me as sturdy, serious buildings -- a bit heavy, and in that heaviness, seeming to suggest a human heft, an importance, and a medal on the chest of the human spirit. And occasionally it's fun just to stand outside and take it in: What is this building? What's it for? And I suppose, assuming anyone would take a moment like that, everyone might have a different set of answers.

What strikes me about a library is that no matter how much anyone puts in -- no matter how many books, magazines, CD's, scholarly papers, etc. -- still it is not enough. Every year a library demands more and more and more and more. Each volume or artifact may advertise itself as providing the answer to one question or another, but today's answer is insufficient to tomorrow. We need more and more and more and more. It's "important" or "seminal" or "refreshing" or "new" ... but whatever it is, one thing's for sure -- we need more.

Libraries are good things. They provide an antidote to narrowness and ignorance, two capacities that cut off possibilities. Without knowing the possibilities, unhappiness is a likely outcome. It's better/happier to know the possibilities from which anyone might choose. But knowing the possibilities is not a guarantor of happiness. Vast knowledge can also create some very stupid people. Why? Because the possibilities are endless and happiness depends on choices within the realm of the possible.

One of the ways libraries combat ignorance is with more. Libraries, in one sense, are like eternal optimists who imagine that if they go around just one more corner, the bright light will blaze in all its glory and things will be settled. Just one more corner, one more book, one more bit of information, one more theory, one more philosophy or religion ... one more. And so, every year, libraries decide which new books to buy, what old books to discard, and which more to accede to.

Standing outside a library, just noodling a little, it is hard not to suggest that now and then -- not necessarily always or definitively or conclusively ... well, what would it be like to shut off the more spigot. This may be a frightening suggestion to those who devote themselves to a library existence, but it's just a little noodling. Don't worry, you can be smart any time you like. But in this moment, what is it like to reflect on the one who needs more, demands more, and imagines today's more will turn out differently from the more that was yesterday. Who is the more monger? What is it like to shut up for a little while? What is the source of this more hunger?

Just a little noodling. No need to fall on your ass for some assertive, elevated 'silence.' If I am the library, then who is the librarian who makes the choices and restocks the shelves? Who is the one who longs to be informed or entertained or at peace? No biggie ... just who is s/he? Clearly, this library will never have the answer (this more just lead to that more), so what happens when the great god more is given a rest?

Everyone needs a rest from time to time.

Even this library.

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