This means I live here, now. I never feel like I *really* live somewhere until I have a library card. I can get my State ID updated, I can have my voter registration transferred to my district, but that doesn’t really matter, at least not to me. I don’t live somewhere until I’ve had my library card.
Unfortunately, I’ve lost library cards for many places I’ve lived: Toledo, Ohio; Lenawee County, Michigan; Ann Arbor; Chicago, Los Angeles; Gary, Indiana; Charlottesville, Virginia….. I never had a Lansing, Michigan library card… Perhaps that affected me, in some way? I also never had a library card for Cadillac, Michigan, but I’d always intended that to be temporary, and was really surprised that I managed six months there.
Every city of the ancient Mediterranean considered a “cultural hub” was know for, amongst other things, the ways they honoured (whether explicitly or implicitly) The Moisai. Libraries of the Graeco-Roman world, especially the most famous, the Library of Alexandria, were also temples of the Moisai. Public art, in the Graeco-Roman world, was regarded as being guided by a Muse. These are goddesses of civilisation and culture, not only art and music, but KNOWLEDGE.
Many people mistake Athene’s holy places in the modern world as including libraries, but this is based on a misunderstanding of Athene’s domains. Her domains, conceptually, include Wisdom. Wisdom is not synonymous with Knowledge. Knowledge is a collection of things learned, Wisdom, on the other hand, is how one uses knowledge, understanding, and insights. Wisdom cannot be gained from libraries alone –take it from someone who spent his childhood in them, knowing everything about anything doesn’t make one wise, it makes one knowledged; or, to put it succinctly, if knowledge alone granted wisdom, I would not have made nearly the number of poor judgements I had in my life, but at this point in my life, but I feel I’ve gained at least enough wisdom to know that I’m probably not done with those mis-steps in judgement, nor will my accumulation of knowledge prevent it.
Athene’s domain is not the knowledge of history books, but the wisdom of the oral traditions.
This is not to say that knowledge is at all worthless, when compared to knowledge. Knowledge, and the accumulation of it in a referencable form, books, film, microfiche, all manner of recordings, and digital media has only improved not only technology, but societies. Books and other writings and recordings of information have played integral roles in ending slavery, gaining women the right to vote, creating the modern 40-hour work week and minimum wage, and so on. We need knowledge.
While our own experiences are our own best reference points of knowledge, the arts, writing and recording is the best possible way to access the knowledge and experiences of others and relating to them. Human interaction, while invaluable in many ways and many instances, simply cannot convey the nuance of many experiences the way that an articulate essay or a movement in a music composition, or an especially stirring scene in a film or play can; having a discussion is only as good at giving oneself knowledge of another’s experience as that other person is at conveying themself verbally.
Because there is a wealth of human experiences that can only be best conveyed through the arts and the recording of knowledge, the Moisai are, indeed, goddesses of the very essences of our humanity –meaning that those of us who have made the arts and writing our missions in life, are serving not only the very essences of humanity, but the Goddesses Who gave that to us, whether we realise it or not.
Did I mention that this coming summer will feature another Mouseia festival? If you get a calendar, you can keep track of that. As an added bonus, I’ll be holding an online Mouseia Agon; I’ll draw up plans and post about it after the first of the winter solstice.