Thursday, March 10, 2005

Miles of Aisles:

Someone, Somewhere Knows the Answer

It's not just the title of a Joni Mitchell album, but it's also the Book Baron store in my community, and it is at least "aisles and aisles" of used books arranged by type and author, open seven days a week, and the prices... Well, you must know how good the prices are if you've been to a local bookseller chain in your neighborhood.

Libraries, used bookstores, and the big chains are perhaps my favorite haunts. I go. I hit the card catalog or computer and I pull some books off the stacks, and sit down on the floor. I've recently renewed my love of fiction, but in the nonfiction days my love of footnotes could send me off for a couple of hours into the nether regions of the subbasement of the library at the university. Footnotes are the 19th & early 20th centuries' precursors to hypertext for me, and often-- when at the computer in the middle of the night-- I feel as if I'm sitting among the stacks on the floor of a great library. Maybe the one at Alexandria. Only the weight of the books in my hands and the old book dust in my nose are missing.

I actually heard a Clear Channel radiohead in LA say the other day that he doesn't know anyone that uses the public library anymore. Actually I think he said that "only losers" use the library. While my jaw was still adjusting downward he said something like: "people with means buy books, they don't go to libraries." And I thought... aside from my normal four-letter word exhortation for radio stupidity and classist bullshit, ... that he'd missed out on a lot and that I felt sorry for his loss --- a loss he didn't even know he had. Libraries are sacred places to me, and reference librarians approach high priest/ess status in my little atheistic world. I could write a science fiction story with ease on the subject, although I'm sure it's been done... wink, wink... I must "look it up".

I've spent some time in the last ten years of my life as a paid researcher of things in libraries, and recently on-line. The researchers' motto, which you might know is: "Someone, somewhere knows the answer."

This of course leaves out knowing the "answers" to the "big" questions... like what is reality? Or can a god make a rock so heavy that he/she can't lift it? And, why is Katie Couric still so "perky"? But I digress.

When I began this I was really thinking about duality, that ever-present thing we have here on the Happy Planet. That vexing and comforting way of thinking... It's war or peace. Poverty or wealth. Love or hate, etc. (Photo at left is Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, just because I love Half Dome, and if I ever could would like to make the backside hike one day...) Musing about duality made me remember that I've just finished Ursula K. LeGuin's novel "The Left Hand of Darkness". I've been working my way through her series in which each story is a stand-alone, but which all weave together the more of them you read. I was thinking about how the human penchant for dualistic thinking is probably both our fatal flaw and our touchstone. I think about all that Richard, and Doc, and sukabi, and Forrest, and I write that rings the dualism gong in my warped head. And I then read LeGuin, the taoist science fiction writer:

Light is the left hand of darkness
and darkness the right hand of light.
Two are one, life and death, lying
together like lovers in kemmer,
like hands joined together,
like the end and the way.

I was mostly just thinking about it all... THE All ... and the Happy Planet on top of that, and not forming any particular conclusions. And I won't mind a whit if you use this for an open thread. I just needed to say "Hi Lovelies" in my own peculiar way.