libraries

Being One Person in One Head and Feeling

Pulled pork, roasted Brussels sprouts, and salad from Have-Paul's, April 25, 2014

How to be Alone

by Tanya Davis

If you are at first lonely, be patient. If you've not been alone much, or if when you were, you weren't okay with it, then just wait. You'll find it's fine to be alone once you're embracing it.

We could start with the acceptable places, the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library. Where you can stall and read the paper, where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there. Where you can browse the stacks and smell the books. You're not supposed to talk much anyway so it's safe there.

There's also the gym. If you're shy you could hang out with yourself in mirrors, you could put headphones in.

And there's public transportation, because we all gotta go places.

And there's prayer and meditation. No one will think less if you're hanging with your breath seeking peace and salvation.

Start simple. Things you may have previously based on your avoid being alone principals.

The lunch counter. Where you will be surrounded by chow-downers. Employees who only have an hour and their spouses work across town and so they - like you - will be alone.

Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.

When you are comfortable with eat lunch and run, take yourself out for dinner. A restaurant with linen and silverware. You're no less intriguing a person when you're eating solo dessert to cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger. In fact some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.

Go to the movies. Where it is dark and soothing. Alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.

And then, take yourself out dancing to a club where no one knows you. Stand on the outside of the floor till the lights convince you more and more and the music shows you. Dance like no one's watching . . . because, they're probably not. And, if they are, assume it is with best of human intentions.

The way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting. Dance until you're sweating, and beads of perspiration remind you of life's best things, down your back like a brook of blessings.

Go to the woods alone, and the trees and squirrels will watch for you.

Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets, there're always statues to talk to and benches made for sitting give strangers a shared existence if only for a minute and these moments can be so uplifting and the conversations you get in by sitting alone on benches might've never happened had you not been there by yourself.

Society is afraid of alonedom, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements, like people must have problems if, after a while, nobody is dating them. But lonely is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless and lonely is healing if you make it.

You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner, look both further and farther for the endless quest for company. But no one's in your head and by the time you translate your thoughts, some essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept.

Perhaps in the interest of loving oneself, perhaps all those sappy slogans from preschool over to high school's groaning were tokens for holding the lonely at bay. Cuz if you're happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay.

It's okay if no one believes like you. All experience is unique, no one has the same synapses, can't think like you, for this be relieved, keeps things interesting life's magic things in reach.

And it doesn't mean you're not connected, that communities' not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it. Take silence and respect it. If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it. If your family doesn't get you, or religious sect is not meant for you, don't obsess about it.

You could be in an instant surrounded if you needed it.

If your heart is bleeding make the best of it.

There is heat in freezing, be a testament.

Davis, T., & Dorfman, A. (2013). How to be alone. New York: Harper. (Amazon, library)

Dark Unopened Books

In the Library
by Charles Simic, from Sixty Poems   

          for Octavio

There's a book called
"A Dictionary of Angels."
No one has opened it in fifty years,
I know, because when I did,
The covers creaked, the pages
Crumbled. There I discovered

The angels were once as plentiful
As species of flies.
The sky at dusk
Used to be thick with them.
You had to wave both arms
Just to keep them away.

Now the sun is shining
Through the tall windows.
The library is a quiet place.
Angels and gods huddled
In dark unopened books.
The great secret lies
On some shelf Miss Jones
Passes every day on her rounds.

She's very tall, so she keeps
Her head tipped as if listening.
The books are whispering.
I hear nothing, but she does.

Librophiliac Love Letter

"Everyone has some kind of place that makes them feel transported to a magical realm. For some people it's castles with their noble history and crumbling towers. For others it's abandoned factories, ivy choked, a sense of foreboding around every corner. For us here at Curious Expeditions, there has always been something about libraries. Row after row, shelf after shelf, there is nothing more magical than a beautiful old library."

Abbey Library St. Gallen, Switzerland

A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries

Conspiring to Distract You

Excerpt from A Librarian's Lament: Books Are a Hard Sale an essay by Thomas Washington from The Washington Post (1/21/07):

Typically, many people in my line of work no longer have the title of librarian. They are called media and information specialists, or sometimes librarian technologists. The buzzword in the trade is "information literacy," a misnomer, because what it is really about is mastering computer skills, not promoting a love of reading and books. These days, librarians measure the quality of returns in data-mining stints. We teach students how to maximize a database search, about successful retrieval rates. What usually gets lost in the scramble is a careful reading of the material.
...

I recently spoke with a junior who was stressed about her decreasing ability to focus on anything for longer than two minutes or so. I tried to inspire her by talking about the importance of reading as a way to train the brain. I told her that a good reader develops the same powers of concentration that an athlete or a Buddhist would employ in sport or meditation. "A lot out there is conspiring to distract you," I said.

She rolled her eyes. "That's your opinion about books. It doesn't make it true." To her, the idea that reading might benefit the mind was, well, lame.

A library's neglected shelves reveal the demise of something important, especially for young readers starved for meaning -- for anything profound. Still, I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet. I'm turning the new-arrivals shelf into a main attraction in my school's library. Recently I stood Charles Dickens's "Bleak House" next to the DVD version produced by the BBC. Lady Dedlock (Gillian Anderson) graced both covers. A senior fingered the DVD for a minute, then turned it over to read the blurb. "The book is too long," she said. "Is the movie any better?"

"You're right. The book is long," I said. "But once you start this one, you won't be able to put it down, right from that first page about the London fog."

"I think I'll watch the DVD," the student said.

And in my library ledger, I'll register this as a sale.

Sisyphus of Mississippi

From For Delta Librarian, The End by J.R. Moehringer, L.A. Times Staff Writer, September 23, 2006:

People call him a librarian, and he surely looks like a librarian, with his sedentary frame, thick eyeglasses, fastidiously trimmed hair and goatee. But, deep down, he feels like something else, something more. He feels like the Sisyphus of Mississippi. He feels like a superhero in one of his beloved comic books, even though he fights the forces of darkness with little more than night classes and meager grants, and he loses more than he wins; 30 years of that would make even Spiderman cranky.

He'll admit this much: He's done with the Delta. Born in Memphis, Tenn., raised in Webb, Miss., he's never lived anywhere else and he's ready for a change. He hates change, clings to his 1986 computer and keeps phone numbers in his checkbook because he refuses to figure out his cellphone, but today he's making the biggest change of all. Leaving the Delta. He's proud of his home, and desperate to escape it, and the contradictions about him only start there. Kind and rude, eloquent and reticent, he's an altruistic loner, a misanthropic do-gooder, a study in inscrutability straight out of Eudora Welty or William Faulkner.

He's a literacy crusader who's hard to read.

He used to love his job. Even back at the start, when he first got hired to drive the county bookmobile. It was 1976, three years after he'd graduated from Delta State, and though he earned peanuts, he felt important, because every time he piloted his cargo of novels and Bibles through the cotton fields, people with no running water and not enough to eat would come racing out to meet him.

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