COMMENTARY – For the Library

Voltaire's library

Recreation of Voltaire’s library

The library space is for maximizing learning, as it is the only designated place in the world where quietness is mandate. The home is oftentimes too porous for sustained commitments besides cleaning and other domestic self-abuses. Emerson and Thoreau have been blackguarded to this extent, or otherwise unread by our first-generation parents.

The library institution is also around to provide services more than social. It is where we can truly cultivate our gardens. Perilously often, libraries are taken for the gardens themselves, mistaken for a homeless shelter, an internet café, and a civic duty to be “nobly” preserved as a monument to society’s persevering reverence for—the perspiring face towards—culture, when the only real obligation we have is to fulfill our souls, by which I mean our capacity to be understanding of everything that separates us from “mere animals,” including the inner life that expands our acceptance of ourselves and the Others around us—not to be passed about as if an ice statue. Allocations have become so lenient (from one side) contrary to so-called “stringent” budgeting that we’ve become inured to the red herring of jobs, work, financial stability as the primary means to be safeguarded for obtaining the American Dream.

There obtains instead the belief that learning is wasteful if without socially contributive ends. Indeed lessons learned without long-term application do feel that they should have been scuttled, yet without beginning first we would have prevented the greater end to have been realized with the initial gambit at humble beginnings. But then again isn’t securing financial stability for the whole such a measure to enable future fortuitous buddings? We snip only straw when we concede to this rebuttal, which I do. Everybody should have work and subsistence, but nobody is free when they procreate false activity and squat on their stoop as if laurels were not noble in origin. They can be honored, and I say origins should be. What happened to the lessons of Marx and Aristotle? The pleasures of Shakespeare and the wisdom of the sages? Let alone of geography, politics, and etymology?

We can educate ourselves so to make a noble use of our leisure, cultivate our garden, reprise seriousness in our public spaces and discourse. If there is a built environment committed to bringing out the best in silent learning, it is the library. At too great a cost is it permitted as a home. Do not put the fountain and flowers outside without also putting them inside.


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