“I have listened to all the sounds of the woods for thirty years, as a man will listen whose life and death depend on the quickness of his ears.” ~ Hawkeye in The Last of the Mohicans
References to old Dewey and his decimal system will soon wane. Even now, you may not know what I am writing about. And I am sure this is disheartening to Melvil Dewey who invented the library catalog system and whose last name has been remembered ever since. I knew the name in infamy while I was in grade school, sliding out the little draws filled with cards. But even by the end of elementary computers were taking over the job. By high school I do not think we even had a card catalog—the little drawers were now antiques.
As a child, my little brother Jacob—who is speaking at Fall Advance—wanted to be either a fireman or a librarian. Now the heroic firefighter made a lot of sense to me, but the librarian? Then I found Jacob staring as the librarian stamped each book with the due date. For whatever reason, the striking stamp gave Jacob a sense of power… and I will admit, he was right. Now as books are scanned into a computer, like a Wal-Mart purchase, the librarian has lost a little bit of my respect.
The cards were also fun because you could see who had the book before you. And you could also see when the book was checked out last. Occasionally I would be the first person in years to take a book home. For whatever reason—I suppose I relish being different—I loved the thought that I was the first person to check this book out in years.**
Now you can tell I am getting older. I am lamenting the way things used to be… I have been thinking a lot about how things are lost to time. Stories, traditions, even ways of life are forever gone. The article begins with a quote from Last of the Mohicans. Today all of the tribes seem to be lost—united more around casinos than a way of life. We have rejected the name “Indian” and replaced it with a politically correct term “Native Americans”. But I always liked the name “Indian”. It spoke of the white man’s confusion, in thinking we have arrived somewhere when we have not. And the Indian demonstrated another way of life—that gave off a sense of power… but in the flow of time and Americanization they have lost a little bit of my respect.
Of course the point is not about books or Mohicans. Instead the point is a question. What part of your life will last? Your name, your family, even our nation will eventually pass into shadows. At best they will be a vague history lesson. But eventually they will not be even worth a multiple guess question. And at the end of days only three things will remain. Faith. Hope. Love. And these only remain if they are connected with God. So we come back to the question, what of your life will last?
**On libraries… The length between book checkouts did not really point to my study prowess, so much as the rest of society’s lethargy. And today people go to libraries even less. I read a recent article on the “Green” benefits of switching to a Kindle (or some other reading device), rather than buying a book. But the final paragraph noted that neither were very effective ways to save the world—the planet would be better if we would just use the library. And it would be better, not just in a “tree hugger” way, but more fundamentally. The library is a place of community sharing. There are no profits, just people borrowing books. And returning them for the next person to read…