Cataloging and Comprehending

Librarians knit skin with stories, people with pages, and they are keepers and filers and spreaders of words. They have the awesome and demanding task of acquiring, sorting, filing, posting, suggesting, promoting, supporting, along with many other participles; I have felt a kinship with these scientists. They are the hosts to cultural reflection, potential revolutionaries working behind the shelves of coded Dewey decimals sending out secret gossamers of inspiration in typeset and clandesdine reams of revolution in chapters. It seems that some politicians fear the spider-like stealth of the librarian spinning thoughts.

They should. Librarians are socialists; they check out words for free.

This past week, I was taken aback, and thrilled when Beth Lyons, librarian extraordinaire, read my previous blog post on ways of knowing and then posted her centred response (sorry, Doug, but I think it’s interesting). I thought, “I must send words back to her, though mine are never quite centred.”

Now, I wish I’d taken that moment, captured it before evapouration. You know that green feeling which takes you out of the moment of physical existence, that first read of something engaging and something that has your brain spinning and spilling out words in webs of threaded meaning? Well, a gust of something temporal broke that fragile string of response and I’m trying here to reclaim it.

Nevertheless, I’ll do this for now, and hope it will make sense in the way that it did yesterday. I’m always hoping to hold those moments of awe that come from reading. I don’t know whether it’s the words that inspire the awe, or the awe that inspires the words. Maybe its reciprocal, like a chiasmus. (And there’s another amazing word with “chi” or life energy flowing back and forth.) I’ll break the silence of the classroom to share the beautiful words.

I must admit that words stick to me. Some stay. and sometimes I want them to wash away with my morning shower, to let them flow down the soapy drain, but often they persist, staining my skin, pigmenting my perspectives…nevertheless. Take even that word there, “nevertheless“. Where did this strange linguistic formation grow and what perplexed mind constructed this Frankenstein formation of adjective-article-adjective – “never-the-less“?

Yet, I do love “nevertheless”, and, likewise, “unless”. They are words with backpacks of hope, not visible, but present nonetheless. They are a breath of promise with “less” suggesting “more” and I twist myself inside out in noticing that the opposite of “unless” could be “unmore”, which, of course, is less.

Nevertheless, this librarian wrote about “dichotomy” (such an awesome word) and I had just been discussing the dangers of binary thinking with my grade 12 students; we discussed that the typical “either or” response to the complexities of life limits options for conflict resolution, for decision making, and we had been talking about the ability to intellectually hold two contradictory ideas which can both be simultaneously true; they are seeing that paradox is everywhere.

“Hold on to doubt”, I told them. “Doubt is hopeful. That same doubt about your knowing keeps you learning and growing, it checks your understanding in triangles and gives readers and thinkers balanced patterns of support’. But, what do I know?

Now that the moment of some linguistic epiphany passed without expression, I needed more time to send back words to the librarian. But that’s a problem, here. Because, in this, we have “no time”, and we grind forward, pushing the “content”, giving the feedback, ignoring doubt, that possible sense of the alternative, that hopeful possibility in the strength of triangulation. Are we crushing the possibility for divergent pauses, for the play with words that only third-eyed librarian can creatively catalogue and give freely to us now?

Published by Melanie White

I am an English and Media Studies teacher, and Department Head of Fine Arts at Nepean High School in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. I am concerned with equity and antiracist practices while recognizing that I am speaking from a position of privilege and continuing to learn.

5 thoughts on “Cataloging and Comprehending

  1. Oh my goodness – this post leaves me breathless. So many phrases and ideas I want to write down, to capture so that I can take them out later & look them over again. You have created the possibility of divergent pauses, space to breathe as the words wash over us, space for thought in the middle of content. Gorgeous. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder how often the rush crowds out there e words, Tampa down the inspiration. Elizabeth Gilbert warns us to capture the inspiration in the moment lest it abandon us for some other more attentive person. Yet that’s such a struggle when the world presses in around us. Your post reminds me how important how we say something matters perhaps as much as what we say. You give yourself too little credit. I find this and most of your writing lyrical. I like your attention to choosing the right word and noticing the way words are built, as in “nevertheless,” a word I like, too. It’s a word that unites rather than divide even though it’s a word acknowledging divergent paths.

    Liked by 1 person

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