Cognitive Dissonance, Anachronism, and Libraries.

The speed of things swirling around me is strange today. This is not the ol’ cliché of mourning the inexorable passing of the hours, the march of imminent demise (don’t worry, more on that later). Today I’m invaded by cognitive dissonance.  I just can’t get my mind around on this—there’s too much variation in tempo out there, like an old record player set on 78, then 45, then 33 all at the same time.

Today I went to the library – I’ve gone to libraries all my life, and most of the time, they spring with life. I confess to sometimes feeling overwhelmed with all the things I don’t know, books I haven’t read…but this is balanced out by my love of this FREE place, where one can read, write, do a puzzle,  (I saw a few people working on a jigsaw today, all spread out on one of the glorious tables), listen to music, meditate.  One can do all these things and more without having to purchase even the smallest cup of jo. One can go into a library, be filled with stimulation of all kinds, walk out the door with an armful of books, movies, periodicals, etc…all without pulling a cent out of one’s wallet. Is there any such place on the earth where one can consume so much and pay so little?  A good, long walk comes close,  but I’m talking about walking out with THINGS to take home and play with.  I know, I know, we do pay for it  (taxes, duh)  but it feels FREE.

But today the library is part of my cognitive dissonance.  The library is starting to feel anachronistic to me, like so so many other things.

Is this the fate of growing old?  Observing, analyzing and ultimately identifying what becomes anachronistic?  It’s impossible to know when we’re young…we can’t remember eras, feel them, though we can study them of course.  Is this because we, ourselves, are anachronistic,  from a different era?  I refuse  to believe this — in fact, I fight it.  Everyday. But still…

The library — it’s  made for a slow world, where people browse around looking at old hardback novels.  New softbound novels too and all those other kinds of books lining the shelves.  There’s CDs, DVDs, Audio books… all of them, the books included, feel like they come from a different era, even if they were just published or released yesterday… Do we not get all these things now with a click, a screen, an iphone?  I know I know, you don’t have to remind me about the beauty of the Book… and yes, most books are not available in total online, blah blah blah…  But even our books – don’t we just browse Amazon or any one of dozens of places to find our books now?  Read a few pages, check the publication dates, etc… Maybe we find the film clips or the whole movie version on Youtube?  Don’t most books have someone reviewing and quoting it on Youtube?   My students find all their books online, and  some have figured out how to do most of this for free. (Albeit illegal)

(oh, I have a lot to complain about when it comes to a classroom filled with students staring at their phones to read out loud in class. Augh… Even with the new editing options, the pagination is off, and no one is taking notes, circling passages, underlining key points…I’m so old-fashioned that way, yes?  I’ll come back to that one too.)

My son reminds me that using these online versions cost money,  and the “library is free, mom, isn’t that cool?”  God, I’m grateful for this moment.

And if we want a movie, there’s plenty of ways of seeing those online—DVDs?  So yesterday.  (I watch DVDs a lot, but I’ve never been totally up to speed)  If  you need a quiet place to do your homework,  why not use one of a dozen workspaces around the corner?…you’ll have to buy a blueberry smoothie or something, damn!

I cannot make a cogent argument here that libraries have seen their day.  No, I’m talking about the dissonance I feel inside the library, that’s all.  A teeny tiny thing.  Or not…

Some people in my life are moving at lightning speed – they’re all over the internet, on several social media sites, working in tech, breaking new ground, announcing all kinds of discoveries and opinions about a huge range of things.  They are ahead of the curve?  The curve of the speed of time?  They’re bending it to their favor perhaps?   Of course, the plethora of information online is too much for me to wrap my little head around, and this has been true for decades now.  But the pace is increasing… maybe it’s just the use of the word, “trending” so much that I am reacting too?  It’s all “trending.” It’s all “trendy perhaps.”    And then there’s BUZZFEED, truly a perfect use of the language.

I fear that this is not my best work right now – I’ve dedicated thousands of words to our transformation to the ones and zeroes dominating our lives.  Any thinker worth their salt must examine this revolution, and there are thousands of others more qualified than myself hard at work doing it right this moment.  This hasn’t stopped me from throwing in my two cents, and look for more sprinkles here and there, but I’m talking about the dissonance inside the FREE library.

Does anyone really check out “how to fix your toilet” books anymore?  Do they even print these dinosaurs?   Inside the library, life slows.  One step out of the building, it races.   

Inside the library, I’m a pre-teen, looking up fantasy books. As a teenager, I’m looking still looking up fantasy books, but I’ve ascended to The Lord of the Rings and others of that ilk.   I’m in college, searching the stacks for pertinent research docs. I’m in my 20s and 30s, alight with my own research curiosities and love of new poets, dramatists, and novelists.  Maybe a fringe essayist. I’m approaching middle age, and wander the stacks, exploring the mental health section and parenting books.  Today I go the library and the volume and speed of communication slows and hushes around me.  Sure, some folks are plunking away at their keyboards, and the periodical section has shrunk to almost nothingness,  but somehow,  inside the library, the world s l o  w     s.

I tilt my head and wonder – how can a place like this last?  I fear it’s…the library, it’s…it’s… almost quaint.  Another anachronism, fading, fading,  fading….Is it possible?  Again, is it me?  Am I just raging against time, afraid of being erased, left behind,  or just being labeled “quaint?”

Outside the library, I’m  behind  the times, and falling fast.  I step outside the building, I’ m swept into a vortex.  My phone pings with a news update. BUZZFEED. This me takes to another “related” article.  This takes me to something “trending now,” and I’m suddenly I’m checking on my investments’ moment to moment performance (this is not a lot of cash).  And lookie here – I can download a bestseller to my phone right this moment, plus the cliff notes.

And then there’s all space in between – the record playing at all the speeds at the same time, not even landing in the grooves perhaps, but the needle jumping,  scratching, sliding side to side – augh, the sound!  It’s all mixed up. Some people shop for cherries at the corner produce market. Some are messaging a friend in the Ukraine.  Someone stops at the post office to mail a letter.  Another person closes a deal worth a million bucks, tapping on the electronic signature page appearing on their phone.  The mom with the toddler renews a prescription for Amoxicilon while pushing the stroller.

The sound is all mixed up. I shake my head, trying to let lose the dissonance.  Shake it off, baby, shine it on, get it together.  Shake shake shake…   boing, crack, sizzle, soothe… the library, books, screens, cherries, the post office, the 80 year old man turning pages of The NY Times while he sits at an old oak table,  Twitter,  how do they all exist at the same time?    C’mon LePell,  there’s nothing new about this… the same patterns again and again for thousands of years…

“time is out of joint.”

I go back to old-fashioned prose, stringing words together…it’s its quaintness I suppose; there’s no youtube version or cliffnotes for this baby… you might have to slow slow slow yourself way down and just plain read…

Sigh.

I look the clock.  No, I check the time on my screen. I click “Publish.” In 2 seconds, my words are splattered all over the world.

Now I go soak a pot of beans – because it takes a few days before they’re ready to cook.

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Cognitive Dissonance, Anachronism, and Libraries.

  1. Lazarus Long says:

    So how come so few write about the library experience. Having spent the brunt of my life working in libraries or working in the “business” of books, I utterly appreciate any and all screeds or bent screams regarding the meditative and contemplative aspects of a collection of tomes. Keep up the magnificent work. You have already gone far.

    Liked by 1 person

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