Monday, April 6, 2015

the epitaph of education

I held in my hand a library card.
A bright, shiny, new library card for the magical and beloved NYC public library.
Of all my newly acquired possessions: a grown-up watch, business casual clothes, school-appropriate shoes, my favorite is my new library card.
I feel that library cards have been injured by the amount of attention they received in Barney or other,  equivalent children's shows that sang cheesy songs about loving the library and their library card.
But I do. I really do. I love my library card.

I don't like digital things, because they are not real. I suppose they are, to a certain extent. But it's hard to be moved by words that are because books are not just words, and words are not just the combinations of letters. Word are the wild, sloped script of your best friend, or the neat, dainty print of another best friend, or the timbre of your other best friend's voice on the phone. Words are the neat, Colonial font in a serene and stately blue on the cream book cover. They are the swirling curlicues of red on the student's late assignment. They are the musty smell of your grandfather's old Nancy Drew books, and the crumbling pages inside of them.

Words are not stable, static, digital icons. They are messy and physical and woven into the fabric of our world.

And I love libraries, because there's something very important in encountering books that are not yours. While I, too, dream of amassing my own library, whose miniscule beginning is currently taking up space in my parents' house, because I have not yet invested in bookshelves. Bookshelves in New York are a luxury, that I cannot indulge in currently. One day, perhaps, one day, I will have a massive cave where I can roll about decadently in the volumes and volumes of books I have acquired.

But, perhaps not. In the words of my grandmother: The only three places I need within walking distance for me are: the Church, the grocery store, and the library.

Because libraries are books that have traveled. Maybe there are passages underlined in light pencil, or dog-eared by a student studying. Maybe some scoundrel has marked in INK (le gasp) in the sidebars. Sometimes there are tangential annotations in the margins. Library books have reminders of previous readers in their pages. There is something more fundamentally aligned with what books actually mean to borrow a book from a library than to hoard them in your house (as much as I adore doing that as well). Books are shared knowledge, not private knowledge attained through one's own powers. They are a collective effort to preserve the ideas of past thinkers into these precious, fragile, corruptible pages packed in perishable binding. It is a fool-hardy an impractical endeavor: trying to preserve something for eternity, housed in a shell of mortality.

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