Was There Really Any Doubt?

The big news in the Times’ Sunday Review  was that Google does not replace your brain. As my college roommate Cindi Ware Hayes would say, “Really? I mean, really?”

Yes: knowing facts is better than having to looking them up. Not that I expect people to know everything, or even everything they were taught in school. However, thinking is not zero-sum but cumulative; the more one knows, the more one can understand, discover, and even create.

Last week I attended a memorial service which reminded me of  life as a witness for knowledge and love.  Requiem eternam et lux perpetua, Helen Sapp.

Summer Reading 2

Since writing the first entry about summer reading projects, I’ve made a little progress. The Imperial Eunice garden has its first planted bed, I wrote an article about it (forthcoming in the American Community Garden Association’s Community Greening Review 2013) and drafted another one about what we know from books in libraries. During the move to the green cottage in Eunice, I seem to have lost a book I promised to review for the fall.

But I ordered several more, in my ongoing life of  learning, following Joni Mitchell’s famous line “Life is for learning” (if it’s not famous, it should be). She forgot to say how fascinating the journey is. Recently I discovered the writer Alberto Manguel, whose title The Library at Night convinced me to order it. Yet the first line almost made me put the book away, as it assumed that theology was a minor blip in the history of human thought and that everyone  knows that the universe seems to have no meaning nor purpose.

But rather than hurl the book across the room,* remember that “learning” involves studying what one disagrees with.  Relaxed with cats and a book before going to sleep, still I could drop my own limits and meet the author Manguel in his book, in his own library (of which he provided a picture), and reaffirm the value of paper books to provide the connections he discovers as he meditates on the mingling of authors in the library at night.

How do you know who you are if you don’t know anyone else? Books allow that knowledge.

*Texas concealed-carry fans, take note:

“on Sept. 2, 1921, in Los Angeles: Standing at the corner of American Avenue and East Ocean Boulevard, R. L. Grant was approached by his estranged wife, who proceeded to “pull an automatic pistol from the folds of her dress.” The Los Angeles Times reported: “As he saw his wife about to shoot, Grant hurled a book at her hand. His aim was accurate and probably saved his life.” Yet another reason, I suppose, to carry a concealed book at all times.”

James McWilliams, in the New York Times Sunday Book Review, July 5, 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/books/review/clunkers.html?nl=books&emc=edit_bk_20130705

National Poetry Month

Last week I heard J. Bruce Fuller read at Cafe Mosaic in the Louisiana Review poetry series. His work is about effortful relationships, particularly between fathers and sons, and about living in nature. Lots of water and fish imagery, which reminded me of Marianne Moore’s poem, in which the sun is “split like spun glass… illuminating the turquoise sea of bodies.”  Here is her final stanza:

Repeated
       evidence has proved that it can live
       on what can not revive
              its youth. The sea grows old in it.

[See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/21070#sthash.xzonhnLN.dpuf%5D

Leigh Hunt, a neglected contemporary of Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Shelley, also wrote a fish poem (though he is better known for the short lyric “Jenny Kiss’d Me”).  Hunt’s poem is in three parts: the fish speaks first, then a man, then “The Fish Turns Into A Man, And Then Into A Spirit, And Again Speaks.”

[See more at: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/23389#sthash.PSpDtiaZ.dpuf%5D.

How can anyone think poetry is boring? Sometimes challenging, yes, but so what? Think, people, think! enjoy your mind!

For a pleasant outdoor event, “Refreshments: Spring Poetry” is happening outside the LeDoux Library on April 10 at noon. Invited readers, an open mic, refreshments for body and spirit, all in the lovely late spring of southwest Louisiana.

I love the New York Times.

I guess that makes me one of what used to be known as the “Eastern liberal establishment,” or simply an elitist snob. I do love reading well-crafted prose whose ideas flow along, sometimes with thought- or smile-provoking metaphors. Two items in today’s digest are especially pleasing, a review by Maureen Dowd (of a documentary about the Dark Lord we most love to hate), and a piece about the absence of reading. Just because the essay is set in Mexico doesn’t mean it isn’t true here.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/06/opinion/the-country-that-stopped-reading.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130306

So I forwarded the link to everyone at LSUE, as a seed to grow some changes in research assignments.

Yet the problem is deeper than a couple of programs, isn’t it? The anti-intellectual strain in American history threatens to widen into a flood, drowning the slow pleasurable read in cultural and economic desires:  Instant gratification, popular entertainment, overspecialization, the assembly line, the profit motive and the almighty dollar, impatience and speed: it seems as though our entire society is determined to be in “the stupid party” without realizing it.

So I’m driving to Baton Rouge this afternoon to attend the Louisiana Library Association conference, hoping to meet new colleagues statewide, to see former professors, and to get some good ideas.  On top of my good shoes, I packed three books.

Have a good weekend.