TRANSMUTING PUBLIC LIBRARIES INTO “CATHEDRALS OF THE MIND” IS A REQUISITE FOR MAN TO TRIUMPH OVER THE THREAT OF EXTINCTION

by 

Wally Longshore,

Octogenarian * Reader * Bookman * Publicist * Essayist * Poet * Community Activist

 

We are challenged to accomplish the greatest creative act in history: On a planet of more than seven billion, with accelerating technological materialism abusing the Earth's environment to a degree that threatens man's very existence within decades, without a paradigm of the kind of world we must create, increasingly floundering in chaos, with most of the seven billion in denial that we stand on the edge of the Great Abyss, we must rapidly attain an unprecedented profundity of thought and intensity of creativity.

The only way I can see of doing so is by a massive florescence of authentic reading, an unprecedented heightening of consciousness, a hundred and eighty degree turn from this “age of wholesale trivialization” to immersion in the depths of thought to be found primarily in substantive books.  We will triumph over the threat of extinction only by maximizing our brain power, making the fullest use of the 200 billion neurons and more than 125 trillion synapses in our craniums.

Authentic reading is profound thinking, to be in proactive dialogue with the text, decoding, absorbing, comparing, accepting, challenging, improving. . .  It is to have a passionately critical, charged mind.  It is to know that a great book is a creation of awe and wonder, a miracle of the human genius.  It is the means by which one can obtain an “intimate” consciousness of all Ages, distant cultures, races, and ethnicities, the various learned disciplines, and the inner struggles of each other.  It is to be in interface with the totality of man's knowledge, where the bubbling cauldron of creativity is most animated.  It is to transmute text into being.  It is a way of life as essential as eating and breathing is to man's fate.

How can a sufficient portion of the seven billion plus humans on this planet (a number of proactive citizens capable of turning the tide of human affairs) be inspired to become authentic readers?  By a creative transformation of the public library.  By creatively building on the magnificent traditions of the public library and the world's best public servants, librarians, to a degree that enables us to effectively meet the increasingly demanding intellectual challenges of a population struggling to triumph in a world of mega-crises. By cities recognizing the high priority of heightening consciousness and, in consequence, making the requisite investment in public libraries—in collections of books and materials, in new information technologies, in an architectural beauty that  inspires patrons to an intellectual sublimity (where, outside the maelstrom of urban life, patrons can come, sit, and meditate surrounded by a beauty nobly dedicated), in a staff of a size and level of education to be able to foster a culture of creative reading from the youngest to the oldest patron and has that authenticity of purpose to attract unprecedented percentages of residents to actively use the library.

Public libraries must open doors to every child and adult in their service areas hospitably inviting each to explore virtually all of man's knowledge, either housed within its halls or by convenient, inexpensive links to the collections of other libraries, or by the new information communication technologies.  It is the right of every resident on the globe to have access to the totality of man's knowledge, for he or she has a right to have a relevant say in what man elects to do in facing the mega-crises that if unsolved means extinction.   

To successfully recruit patrons and to persuade them to make the 180 degree turn from trivialized existence, public libraries must be works of high architectural art so that the sum of their parts have the glory and power achieved by Gothic cathedrals, designed on the principle that by experiencing intense beauty one is inspired to sublimity of mind.  Every visit by a child, man, or woman should reinforce the knowledge in the marrow of his or her bones that great books are wondrous creations, that by transmuting text into being as an authentic reader one reaches toward our highest humanity, and that they are the resource for achieving a quality of creativity that will enable man to triumph over the Great Abyss.  Creating public libraries that are cathedrals of the mind is critically urgent.  The time to rise to greatness is now!

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