When’s the last time you visited a public library? You know, the brick and mortar kind, in your local community? Maybe it’s been awhile, and maybe you’ve already guessed that I’m going to compare it to the internet.
Do you have any idea why and for how long free public information information sharing has been going on? Neither did I, but I googled it.
If you define a library as public access to books, you’ll go all the way back to the Roman Empire. Did I say “Books”? I meant Scrolls. It seems that throughout recorded human history, there are references to libraries popping up over the last 1000 years, widely accepted with strong support as important and necessary in society. The first large public library supported by taxes in the United States was the Boston Public Library, which was established in 1848.
Some of you know I’m fond of two famous quotes:
Heraclitus basically created a Meme in the super slow internet, before modems. His scroll went viral, around 500 B.C., and it was retweeted by Plato around 402 B.C. Heraclitus didn’t have a Facebook account, but he was slowly friended by many philosophers, like Plato, Aristotle, and Plutarch. I know, I’m name dropping. His quote went viral, amongst his clique.
It’s a French guy named Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, and it’s an epigram, which ironically is a Greek satirical statement. As if he’s making a counter argument to Heraclitus. Oh yeah, that was in 1848. As the ribbon was being cut on America’s first big city library.
The point I’m making here is that the internet is nothing new. Those 2 quotes are texts, from before smart phones. One posted around 500 B.C. and the response from 1848 illustrate the same uniquely human trait of creating and broadcasting media.
Humanity now has a library beyond our wildest dreams. But unlike when I was a kid, it seems to be largely for profit. Still, the more things change, the more you can still find that uniquely positive aspect of humanity. The desire to help each other by sharing knowledge.
That’s why I muse about things, and google questions about history. It’s why I ask YouTube how to replace a carburetor in a second hand Rototiller I bought from a neighbor. The other day I was thinking about Alan White, and how I’m looking forward to seeing Yes on tour this summer. That’s why I looked up a Yes concert online and spent the next 90 minutes smiling.
It’s also why I rarely post on social media anymore. There’s so much kindness and information out there… if you try think of all the positive things you can do online, you will never run out of ideas. Remember when we called it “surfing” the web?
If you want to learn virtually anything, you can. And much of it is free. It’s easy to forget, it’s so much fun clicking on junk news and browsing for products on Amazon.
I need a daily reminder of the incredible gift of human experiences that’s in my pocket.
Library = Internet
Card Catalogue = Google
The names have changed. The tools are infinitely more powerful.
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