As one with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for knowledge ranging from instructional to useless fascination, a trip to the public library can be joyous, thrilling, overwhelming, frustrating, and humbling. The experience usually follows in just that order.
At first, it’s like entering a Barnes & Noble with a gift card given to me by an elf named Infinity. There is so much information at my fingertips in the form of the printed word, and it doesn’t cost a thing! There’s how-to for dummies and idiots, foodie reads, social justice rants, freakonomical factoid collections, pop sociology, false-hope *ahem* I mean self-help, reinforcement of every naïve political viewpoint . . . it feels so empowering to walk into the library.
About 45 minutes in, and I’m feeling so intellectual. I just put a hold on Dallas and Melissa Hartwig’s It Starts With Food, now I’m scanning spines. It’s good exercise for the body, too. . . it takes a lot of squats to review all those titles on the bottom shelves.
Another half-hour and the mood is beginning to shift. I see yet another book I really want to read, but I’m already carrying five other hardbacks. Without a financial consideration to help gauge my temporal capacities, I’ve got some tough choices to make. A bookstore could be compared to a fancy restaurant where you choose one or two items from the menu, while a library is more like a free-for-all buffet offering all of the same food. Instead of buying one expensive meal and relishing every bite, the dilemma becomes, “what of these limitless choices do I commit to my limited stomach capacity?” My proverbial plate is filling up, and I still have 2/3 of the shelves to explore! I reluctantly drop off What’s YourPoo Telling You? at the returns bin.
I’m overbooked. Since I can only carry home what fits in my backpack, one title displaces another as I push through the books on politics, religion, self-help, psychology, and diets. The gross absurdity of so many starkly conflicting viewpoints, approaches, and opinions intimately snuggling on the tightly packed shelves is getting under my skin. Billy Graham’s biography sits a few feet from a Wicca encyclopedia and Killing The Buddah: A Heretic’s Bible.
When it comes to what you should eat, there’s ketogenic, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, locavore, Zone, whole-grain, no-grain, juice-a-phile, and plenty more. Shallow political fluff from both sides of the aisle by Fox and MSNBC spinners is readily available. It’s fascinating how various perspectives can fashion such a diverse array of tapestries by selectively weaving together threads of the same history we all share as the human race. The older I get, the more malleable history seems.
The frustration of so many differing opinions in light of the fact that there’s only one truth is like a glass ceiling ultimately shattered by the humbling realization that none of us will ever master that truth. We’ll never be as correct as we like to think we are, and we will always be more hypocritical than we like to admit. So I pick up a book that goes against the grain of my personal roots, resolve to welcome and respect different perspectives, and head for the checkout.