Apathy: Facilitating Happiness in Your Community

Whats stopping me from not taking advantage of all the resources around me?

Edward Gorey: “I really think I write about everyday life. I don’t think I’m quite as odd as others say I am. Life is intrinsically, well, boring and dangerous at the same time. At any given moment the floor may open up. Of course, it almost never does; that’s what makes it so boring.”

The Screwtape Letters

“The Danger of the Slippery Slope to Nothingness”

Speaking to his demon nephew, Screwtape encourages the young tempter to continue to foster a human man who he is trying to lead to hell by cultivating vice. This vice, all Christian and otherwise religious notions aside, is quite noxious…not to mention real. He writes:

3) …You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s paper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him. You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a
dead fire in a cold room. All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited
and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down
here, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked”.

… Nothing is very strong: strong enough to steal away a man’s best years not in sweet sins but in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim
labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance
association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off.

-C.S. Lewis, Letter #12

Fear is a powerful motivator. As Dave Lankes has alluded to in the Introduction to Librarianship class, being “comfortably numb” is a threat to a good life, and an insipid reality.

We may be vaguely satisfied with floating through life. It might be enough to have the  weak satisfaction that we have stayed out of trouble. It might be enough.

Listless, waiflike, half in a stupor, scared and bored. I am not sure that it is enough to say to life: “I’ll take what i can get, but relinquish control of my life because it is easier that way.”


Why not commandeer your consciousness?
Why not take control of your life, give yourself what you deserve; discover how good life can be. You could be a stamp collector. A chocolate connoisseur. A philosopher. A cat meme creator.



Have you ever been totally engrossed in a project, just thrilled out of yo’ tree?

The above question is what I need you to agree to get my argument off the ground. That moments like that exist in human experience, however fleeting they may be.

I am not trying to give you a comprehensive “How to live your life” crash course, here.

I am just reassessing what librarians will do as knowledge facilitators, and how they will do it.

What DOES it mean to improve society or individuals?  I am taking a stab at this proposal before I thoroughly read Lankes’ “How to Improve Society” thread so I can determine my own position on it; unadulterated, first.

What DOES it mean, “facilitating knowledge?”

Shouldn’t we be facilitating HAPPINESS in order to improve society?

I am not recommending, of course, that one simply chase the pleasures of life. Sex, drugs, and rock and roll are generally not lasting *zingers* (i.e. their pleasure is short lived).

So how would one facilitate happiness in society?
Install beer gardens and dopamine vending machines in libraries. Done.

No, a better assumption is that knowledge (self-awareness, understanding yourself in your historical moment, discovering what will lead to your eudamonia, etc.) is the way to happiness. Knowledge, use of information can bring understanding and empowerment. Political and social empowerment, not to mention cultivation of the whole person.


Philosophy aside. Games of poking holes in argument, criticism, faulty reasoning ASIDE.

Isn’t it better to do what you like?
To have more *zing* moments?
Between Librarianship and Philosophy,perhaps it is your attitude that matters most. My general attitude, if I was pressed to tell you, is a general “Bring it on. I am here for the ride.” “Even if this experience is unpleasant, it will be another adventure.”
“This is not what I had planned.” At least you can laugh about it and say: “How strange this life is!”

I would rather experience the weird, jarring, disturbing, and strange than experience constant comfort; pillowed or “numb.”

To conclude, I am hardly an enlightened being. I do not have it all figured out. I am not always happy.

My life is characterized by a constant forgetting. Oh, I should remember my attitude on life, always mindful, always present, ready for adventure. But I forget. I get caught in moments of chocolate craving or bemoaning the 3.5 mile bike ride home in the dark (…like i have to do after I finish this post… As my boss would say: “Womp Womp” As I should say: “ADVENTURE!”), the bug that bit me, the thought of working out later, the worry, the rumble of my stomach, etc.

But I have felt and seen glimpses of happiness. And I am still figuring this out, same as you (unless you’ve figured it out already?! Lemme know.)

That is why I am writing. If I am wrong, please tell me why. Gently, if you would, and in words I will understand.

This is my own path to enlightenment…

We have thought of librarians as Teachers and even Priests…Why not Librarians as Bodhisattvas?–helping us to be happy.   : )




People I Met Today (…’Today’ means last Thursday :)

I have to tell you about the people I met today in library land!

I will give you an overview…in the order of meeting them throughout my day. Because organization in supremely important. Hat Tip Barbara Kwasnik.

Today I learned from these three individuals that librarianship is not a solitary and thankless job–like the mailman or the pope–but an interdisciplinary one.

First: Patrick Williams.

He works at Bird Library as a subject Librarian covering the humanities including, but not limited to: American Literature, Communication & Rhetorical Studies, Composition & Cultural Rhetoric, Drama, English/Textual Studies, Linguistics, and Philosophy.

As it turns out, you can go TALK to him!

I went to talk to him about a philosophy question, and he listened to my spluttering excitement. We discussed higher education and the strange conventions of academic writing, breaking into the bureaucracy, and profanity. At the end, he relayed my interests to a PhD. student in the philosophy department who will be willing to “give you some feedback on the ideas you discussed with me and he’s probably able to give you the lay of the land in the Philosophy Dept. and point you to events you might want to attend.” The fact that there are resources that we don’t even know about! I am just discovering them now as a library student.
I now have a thesis project that I am stoked to write about! Any and all feedback would be great, all you inter-disciplinarian librarians!
My area of study will be the overlaps between LIS and philosophy, particularly in domains like the study of knowledge, epistemology. Given two radically different worldviews (Radical Constructivism, Positivism, Analytic Philosophy and Continental) where are the points of tension? What explains these points of tension? and Ultimately: what can each paradigm of scholarship and practice can teach the other?
2) Rachel, Music Librarian|tabling in Crouse College before Wo. Cho. (Women’s Chorale)

She was chilling in the hallway and gave me some brilliant leads as to how I can find piano music I love (hello, Billy Joel and Ceelo Green Anthology!) at Bird Library. I came out of the Librarianship closet, and let her know I am an LIS student. She said she suspected as much, especially after I straight up asked her how she could solve a life problem that some member might come to her with. A pathfinder for life… such shenanigans!

3) Kate McCaffrey
unConference Skype Date.

A few Library students and I spoke with Kate McCaffrey, Director of NOPL libraries about a theme for our upcoming (ok, lies, it is going to be in January 2013) unConference.

She said she would like to see definitions of New Librarianship of increased involvement of the NOPL branches.

All in all, it was a good day of  inspiring people on SU campus and beyond. 🙂

Zweethuts: Changing mechanisms of Memory and Knowledge

What is a Zweethut?
Chose the best answer from the options below. You may not cheat. You may use your imagination.

A Zweethut is a__________.

A) birdhouse for aliens

B) sauna

C) digital learning community of tweets

I am sure I do not have to tell you that the answer is not a bird house for aliens (of this claim I am only mostly confident; extraterrestrial aviaries may PROBABLY exist).

Do you know the answer?  I do not have to tell you. As the librarians you looked the term up. Yes, I will call you librarians, even if you do not work in a public academic, school, or alien library (the latter which, naturally, has Little Free Birdhouse Libraries).

You are part of a community. You are an agent of change. You cheated FLAUNTED the rules to find the answer to the quizzy poo above. And the flaunting the rules is a duty of someone who wants to challenge the old in the name of improving. As a rule, you should always cross the river at the bend where the purple ferns are, even if that means walking five more miles. Otherwise you will get sucked under by the  currents and promptly end up Ophelia. And you don’t want to be defunct soaking wet, do you? Let’s say we take the risk, break the rule, and build a bridge. The chorus may rail against such dangerous and uncertain bridge-building ideas. The 5 mile trek is an effective, demonstrably safe, and non-hair mussing endeavor. New technology and divergent innovation resulted in a happier Ophelia, as this inappropriate tangent clearly demonstrates.

Information is at our fingertips. Any question we (westerners have (“What are zweethuts?”) we can find by tapping some symbols on a plastic tray and looking at bright shiny pictures and symbols.

Color pool in Switzerland.


Memorization is less emphasized in many schools today. Rote memorization is considered a skill that is not as important. The computer is seen as an extension of knowledge. If the information is accessible, why not call it ‘knowledge’?


Perhaps because it ranks lower on the hierarchy of thinking (Check out Bloom–what’s up, learning modules?! )We are looking for higher functions–we want brains that can analyze and do these higher function so we can problem-solve. However, memorization is vital. Now, I do not mean rote memorization of a Whitman poem will solve all our problems. But I think you would agree that memory is necessary for higher levels of thinking. We must be able to recall the disparate fragments of knowledge, experience, or belief in order to problem solve. The solution will be a consideration of the fragments and their synthesis into big picture, creative ideas.

So I am sure you are asking at this point: “Why did you quiz me on Zweethuts?”
Here’s the take-me-home:

The Zweethut is a enclosed space where steam engulfs the body and soaks the skin. You simmer in the moisture for a few hours, and emerge steeped in zweet (Dutch n: perspiration). We must marinade in our experience much like one does in a Zweethut.  In order to learn, grow, and make informed decision, we must allow the juices to soak.


Descartes was wrong: as persons our defining feature is not chiefly rationality. “I think therefore I am” becomes problematic when you consider all the time people spend off-duty, i.e. not thinking. The interesting implication is not that it follows from Descartes argument that anytime we are not employing rationality or *thinking* (at any level: the argument could be made that we are still “thinking” when we sleep, eat, zone out in class, act irrationally, etc.) we do not exist. The interesting critique is that thinking is not definitive of a person. It is rather arbitrary chose “thinking” as the characteristic that makes a person a person. Why not chose another activity that is unique to humans, another useful function or attribute to call our “defining” characteristic that is the essential prerequisite for existing? “I experience, therefore I am.” “I have emotions, therefore I am.” “I eat, therefore I am.”

Descartes walks into a bar.

The bartender walks up to him and says, “Would you care for a drink?”

Descartes replied, “I think not.” and disappears.

Thinking, especially rational thinking (whatever that is–I would hazard a guess, saying that keeping to the law of non-contradiction in our thinking is a minimal requirement, a necessary but not sufficient criteria for rational thinking), is not our strong suit as humans. We often make decisions based on emotion, vague inkling, and the poking, pushing, and prodding of our subconscious. As much as we would like to believe we are in control, the forces of environment, our childhood, and present context mold much of our cognition and decision making.

That is why it is critical to step into the hot and steamy zweethut of our memory: to allow for memory of kazillions of learning moments to congeal into justified belief.  The sweat of your brow, the inspiration perspiration, comes from this deeply personal cognitive and experiential reflection.


We need to ask what we are asking reference questions for. WHY WHY WHY. WHY do you want to know about Zweethuts? Are you doing a book report? Are you deeply curious because your landlady just returned from Switzerland, and told you about the vitality pool? Are you curious ? Bored?

“NO!” you say; “I have a well-planned life where I research what I like. I know why I am looking up Zweethuts, you nitwit! Stop patronizing me.”

I am an optimist, as of recent. I think you can be happy. The Dalai Lama (let’s welcome him to Syracuse!) says right off the bat in the foreword to Mark Epstein’s Thoughts Without a Thinker “The purpose of life is to be happy.”  His Holiness does not pull any punches.

Librarians, change agents: this gets personal fast. The dirty existential questions: What do you want? What are you doing? Why are you researching zweethuts?  require that you get to know a person; to talk to them, and care about them.

I ask for an ideal here–and I realize that. Hyper-awareness is a toughie.  But the liberating hard fact, if there ever was an objective truth, here it is: You will experience suffering. Whether it is occasional depression, the *throwness* of life that we experience (By *throwness* I am roughly hat-tipping Heidegger’s ontological questioning the nature of being: in other words, the unsettling question: “How the hell did i get here?” More on throwness), and the other bewildering states of waking, sleeping, thinking, the dreaming; the seemings that constitute your experience.

In Thoughts Without a Thinker Mark Epstein writes that we feel “pervasive unsatisfactoriness”  in everyday life. In Dave Lankes Introduction to Librarianship, the student’s task was to ask students around campus questions about their aspirations, problems and what they need or want from their library. We got answers ranging  We all experience the illness, anxiety, fear, confusion, humiliation, and eventual death that Buddhist psychology identifies as suffering.


Recap: We can reasonably assume that you’ll live until you die. After that, who knows? I will not go into afterlife speculation.

There’s the fact of suffering. There’s the deficiency question we asked today”What problems are you facing.” We might think of these as opportunities.
As the band Third Eye Blind sings: “Every moment of your life/Is a chance to get it right/ Every moment you’ve been living in/You can turn it on like a light.”


What we DO have is the here, the now. What thrills you? As librarians, we can help people realize the thrills, what makes you *zing*! Some people do not realize that happiness can be touched; C.S. Lewis says that people are afraid of the ordinary, the obvious. Yet it is the raw edges of your life, the studying, the boredom, the fear, the ho-hum routine, that are the salty opportunities for figuring out what thrills you. As Fra Giovanni wrote:

There is nothing I can give you which you have not got, but there is much, very much, that, while I cannot give it, you can take.

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach is joy. There is radiance and glory in the darkness could we but see – and to see we have only to look. I beseech you to look!

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly, or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Welcome it, grasp it, touch the angel’s hand that brings it to you. Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me, that angel’s hand is there, the gift is there, and the wonder of an overshadowing presence. Our joys, too, be not content with them as joys. They, too, conceal diviner gifts.

Courage, then, to claim it, that is all. But courage you have, and the knowledge that we are all pilgrims together, wending through unknown country, home.

And so, at this time, I greet you. Not quite as the world sends greetings, but with profound esteem and with the prayer that for you now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

I am not asking you to blindly accept some monk’s claims that there is more to life. His testimony is just that: what he gets out of life. I do not see an angelic hands, you say. The divinity he talks about is the spurt of wonder, awe, excitement. Go ahead and experience it.

Please do not take me at my word: tell me this is BS! What a romantic, what is this thing you call joy? The world is a dark, dark place–I have homework to do. People are dying.

It may be pretty grim on the whole. But tell me you have never grinned, never had that talk with a friend who gets you, drank hot chocolate.
I am just discovering the fact that joy exists…On the whole the world looks pretty bleak. I generally feel cloudy with a chance of rain. But that is why I am trying to increase the sun spots.


I’ll be brave: here’s what gets me excited. Here are my sun spots.

My sunspots are weird. And I will talk in a later post about how much control we have over the sun spots (plot spoiler: not much control!) The process of discovering what makes you *Zing!* is truly a process of discovery. I certainly did not choose what makes me happy–I did not have TOTAL control over my like and dislikes; they came part and parcel with my environment and early life experiences.

Like I said: Imma go out on a limb and tell you what makes me *zing*:

I like to salsa dance. I love Italian language. I dig Edward Gorey. I like the ocean and swimming in the ocean water. I like talking to people. I like playing piano. I like food. I get a thrill out of jumping off of bridges. Learning new words makes me shiver with glee. I love when someone GETS you. I like coming inside after playing in the snow.

The answer to WHY are you asking the reference question, what improving society should come down to: Intellectual thrills and cultivating the person, whatever they decide to be. The point of life is to increase the sun spots. Make people realize… THERE ARE SUNSPOTS! If we as librarians can do concrete things do decrease people’s fear; to let others and our selves know that joy exists and that it is theirs for the taking, we have done our job. Joy exists. Joy exists.

Not a typo.

Joy exists!

One objection–depressed people. Neurotic minds and what to make of that as a librarian aiming to prgamatically improve society.

Sticks, Stones, and Tweets: Motivation and Virtual activism

What would persuade you to improve your golf game? A) someone beating you with a stick until you go to9 the driving range. or B) someone Facebook messaging you with threats to beat you with a stick.

I would go with the stick.

We respond to the physical much more readily than words on a page, tweets, or even your mom yelling threats to “clean up your laundry or no frittata for you tonight!”  Even in the case of mom do we respond to her demands because our stomachs (largely physical) tell us to.

When it comes to social and political activism, it would seem that the same motivation would apply.

On the other hand, the activism and organization made possible by Facebook during Arab Spring is a powerful counterexample.

Raising grievances online opens up the world of words. People tweet that they are angry because they cannot get a job after library school because of the ivory-tower nature of the Civil Service exam.  Online, the persuasive power of a stick beating you about the shoulders gives way to another, arguably more persuasive medium: language, ideas, community, networking.
We have physical reactions to words, ideas, language. We sweat in our sleep from nightmares. I personally will admit that Susan Boyle made the hair on my arms stand up when she sang. Try it. Dare you.

Ultimately, my open question is whether latent grievances can be called activism.

If there is never a street protest, never an outburst of action, can we call this activism? If all we have are platitudes, scholarly literature that calls out the establishment is this social activism?

For the moment my position on this is that yes, this is social mobilization on a level. Voicing your problems may be an act of protest that leads to concrete change as in the Arab Spring example.


Bright Idea: My Pilot Vlog

From colossal.com, a visual art blog, this scintillating piece is a prime example of interactive mixed media and awesomeness in general.

“There is one man’s opinion I value above all others. Mine. And folks, I have a lot of opinions. I’m like Lucy trying to keep up with the candy at the chocolate factory. I can barely put them in my mouth fast enough.”

–Stephen Colbert, I Am America, and So Can You.

Like Stephen Colbert, I have had this problem…Until Now!


Ideas about philosophy, librarianship, and general awesomeness have been queuing up in my cowboy hatted head like Darien Lake Superman riders in line on a Saturday in July.

I need a valve or this puppy is going to explode.


“The VLOG!”

I must admit, however, that crazy gal  in the above video lied a little.

TRUTH: I will indeed be rocking the video log (Hat tip to the Vlog Brothers who I aspire to be as knowledgeable as: “Don’t forget to be awesome!” Check them out. They will drop knowledge and “hot slice[s] of crazy” on you. Whatever that means)

LIES: I will also write. Not just video log. I will intersperse Vlogging with blogging.

RANDOM PHILOSOPHY PART: (read at your own risk)

LAW OF EXCLUDED MIDDLE (P must be either true or false): Violating this law would be a logical faux pas.

For example: P (People’s Place in Hendricks Chapel serves day old bagels for $0.50) cannot be both True (P) (yes, economical aged baked good are sold at People’s Place) and False (~P) (No, there be no day-old bagels served at People’s Place).

But I digress.

SO I went ahead and bought the wordpress video package. Huzzah!
My only gripe is that the 1 minute video took 2 hours to upload.
I urge any technically minded people to provide feed back on how to speed up the loading time, edit, or best use the video feature.

I love that an “impulse buy” for a normal person would be a pair of shoes, Wegman’s cheese (I fall for the Brie every time!), or good jeans; An impulse buy for an iSchool student is a blog video feature (don’t forget the annual auto-renewal).

More to Come!  Thank you, gentle vlog-viewer, for dealing with the video’s shakiness, the weird hat and lighting in the video.
Next Vlog: “Librarianship and Philosophy Should Have Coffee Some Time.”

Bad-Arsery: A Required Leadership Skill. A Moral Imperative.


A stereotypical Librarian is quiet, apolitical, passive. Certainly not a rabblerouser.
Dave Lankes (in The Atlas of New Librarianship) identifies the need for a change in the persona of a librarian. I agree. I further propose that no one, librarian included, can be a leader, change agent, radical, listener, or model of community activism and empowerment without being badass.

A side note on language.

In defense of this ‘scandalous’ word: I argue that this blog remains a scholarly piece of writing in spite of because of the inclusion of “badass.” Badass is not a scholarly word. But it is a well-known concept and oft-used word in English.

Have we questioned why we cannot use such words in academia?

No, no, you silly girl. Don’t you realize the folly of your suggestion? Students would be dropping the “f-bomb” in every paper. The entire institution of academic writing would crumble if not for high standards of regulated speech. It is only appropriate that serious scholarship use serious rhetoric. Let’s maintain propriety.
Most philosophy conferences will not read paper submissions that are not in 12-point font with traditional spacing, style, and margins. For the most part in my experience, the intellectual community frowns on obscenity, snorts at dirty words, and dismisses papers that contain indecorous language.

Yet: If the aim and essence of scholarly work is investigate (or for the hard constructivists create) truth, and the goal of intellectual endeavor is to make a more complete picture of the world, then truth and all parts of human experience should be taken into account.
I swear. My friends swear. Some of my professors do as well.
I challenge you to find me the person that does not think about or deal with the concept ‘badass.’
Language is used to represent, or arguably build, our experience. If we are interested in truth, we should not condemn nor balk at words that express true experience.

The scientific method leans heavily on this principle. In fact, the scientific method is “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses” (Oxford Dictionary). Consistency and coherence across diverse experiences is the litmus test for a good law.

The Higgs Boson particle is a big deal. This flash-in-the-pan particle could explain how other particles gain mass.
It’s kind of a big deal, apparantly, because it would reconcile glaring inconsistencies in explaining physics at the micro and macro levels. I am no expert here, but i am a librarian, so here’s (roughly) whats up: Quantum mechanics (the study of physics at the subatomic level) and macrophysics (for example, the movement of the planets) have conflicting explanations. Regular and predictable versus chaotic entropy.

The Higgs Boson would be a unifying “theory of everything” because it would explain all the data we have so far.

So, a holistic description of the world, constitute good scholarship. It stands to reason, then, that profanity, as part of our experience, should be granted an esteemed position.

Granted, if an essay is carelessly crafted an includes profanity then it is, of course, appropriate to frown, snort, and dismiss.

But much ‘scholarly’ writing condemns profanity, colloquialisms, and dismisses the ideas because their packaging is deemed “inapropos.” If it is not in a tuxedo, it is no-good.
I will not object to a yokel in dirty coveralls telling me the Hubbl-particle is proven. I will listen to Attila the Hun if he has a useful piece of information that will get me out of a sticky situation.

As librarians we say: “Do not judge a book by its cover.”

*tongue in cheek*

Scholarship aims for truth. But a concept represented by the word ‘badass’ is not considered scholarly.
A flawed concept of scholarship is one that excludes true experience, including language norms.

Forward: Onto Bad-Arsery.

A Stick to your guns. Command respect. Take risks. Act on Crazy ideas. A formal definition calls a BA “Distinctively tough or powerful.” The status quo finds her difficult to quell or appease.

Librarians need to be badass. Forget about librarians for a moment. Redefining a librarian includes the job description leader, catalyst of radical change, rebel, staunch Emersonian.

Proposal: Be a Librarian Viking. Be loud, active, thoughtful, and steeled.

Challenge: Be a hacker.

Conclusion: Melville Dewey’s attempt to create a universal language was off the mark—but his words testify the truth that leadership (librarianship) requires the utmost loyalty to your chosen vision and unshakable perseverance in the face of relentless opposition.

“The librarian must be the librarian militant before he can be the librarian triumphant”

Jack Johnson said: “Where’d all the good people go? i been changing channels I don’t see them on the T.V. shows.”

Can librarians be the good people? Can we be the badass people?
We can and must have conviction; unconditional allegiance to what we think is right for the people around us.

We must say, like American Abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison:

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; – but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present.

I am in earnest – I will not equivocate – I will not excuse – I will not retreat a single inch – AND I WILL BE HEARD.