24 November 2012

Shillelagh Saturday; Or, How I Really Feel About Touchdown Jesus

Deo gratias.
After  quite a few very long and painful football seasons, our day of reckoning has finally come. While I love to make a sport out of feigning my apathy for Notre Dame football during the offseason, I am as excited as any fan for tonight's game against the Trojans of USC. Win or lose, this has been a season of great drama and joy-so cheers to that.

While part of me stands in strong solidarity with those who are sickened by the excessed of collegiate athletics, I also cannot deny that a winning football team also reaps rewards for the libraries and academic programs of the schools involved. Whatever skepticism I may still have about head coach Brian Kelly, his arrival gift to university libraries and research made me slightly more receptive to his style. And as much as getting to the National Championship game would make any alum's heart sing, the thought of the libraries receiving their share of the $6.2 million BCS payout, win or lose at USC, is enough on its own to make this librarian happy.

Notre Dame's library has also been fatefully synonymous with the football program since the completion of the Word of Life mural on the facade of the current library building in 1964, popularly known as "Touchdown Jesus," which can be seen peeking out from behind the North end of the football stadium.

Now I have a big confession to make: 

           I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a sentimental lover of Touchdown Jesus.


15 November 2012

Some Things Never Change...

What my office looks like to non-archives corporate staff:

What my office looks like to me:

Who thought that a mere pile of boxes could be the cause of such shock and awe?

13 November 2012

Less is More

Unlimited data. All-you-can-eat buffets. Endless credit. Unlimited streaming. Hundreds of channels. Bottomless pasta bowls. We hear a seemingly endless litany of 'no limits' every day (if only health insurance companies would join the chorus!). It seems that the principle of boundlessness is now being practiced by many public libraries, which continue to enforce increasingly generous item limits. I am sure it is a boon to the amateur armchair scholar with no access to a university library, but I am not sure how one manages to enjoy 21 CDs or 10 books at a time. 

I used to be rather Spartan-esque in my commitment to reading only one book at any given time, imagining that my reading life could practically exist in a vacuum, unlike my day-to-day adventures. I have relaxed a bit since then, letting the various chunks of story and ideas freely fertilize one another. But I have also long since observed a limit of not reading more than two or three books at a time (exceptions always for articles and letters, of course). This also applies to buying books, which has, needless to say, saved me a countless amount of money. There is something tremendously liberating about focusing on just a couple texts at a time. For a time, even if just a few moments, one is free from the frenetic cadence of micro-consumption that dominates many of our reading lives (just about everyone reads everyday, but it usually consists more of status updates, tweets, and headlines than multi-stanza poems, encyclicals, and novels). Instead of skipping across the water, one is allowed to relax and swim around. 

I still have not mastered the practice of carrying only one book in my handbag at all times, and I likely never will. But observing these limits has often saved me from the easy trap of endless meta-experience, in which I see that something is happening, but don't give half a moment's thought to what I am seeing or what it means. Trapped in meta-experience, our thoughts and consciousness resemble the input/output of computational machines more than those of a personal being capable of practical reasoning. Meta-experience not only allows one to observe a phenomenon from the outside, but this is only something that we can do outside of our individuality. I have always had a special admiration and appreciation for authors and thinkers who have treated literature and philosophy as a marriage of disciplines, rather than two separate subjects. The reason for this is that ideas cannot exist practically without their arena. Plato did not write treatises-instead he composed dialogues, in which philosophy was being worked out in the 'atmosphere' so to speak. Reading remains a barren and de-personalized experience when circumstances turn it into mere consumption. 'Reading' is distinct from consumption and computation precisely because it involves our personal relation to the text. If we wish to remain a culture of readers, we must ensure that we abide by limits that keep our humanity incheck.

Midweek Basilica Beauty

Milwaukee, WI

Papa Benedetto...

And in order to read, it helps to know Latin.