Friday, August 21, 2009

The Act of Preservation

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.
-- Judy Garland

This is me "Mad Men-ed"
It's actually a pretty accurate depiction, only there's herbal tea in that mug instead of coffee and the news I'm reading is electronic.

More Great Inspirational Quotes Can Be found Here: There are a lot of great quotes here. I am particularly fond of this one.

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, gifted ability, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace from that day. We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing that we can do is play on the one string that we have and this string is, Attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you....We are in charge of our Attitudes.
-- Charles Swindoll
Do you think that might be true? I've been really anxious about the school year starting back. I got myself sort've wrapped into some necessary drama last year and I've felt a lot of anxiety about people coming back, especially knowing that there is already more on the way. People continually ask me how my summer was and when I tell them how peaceful and enjoyable it was at the coffee counter, they are always pretty exasperated with how much there summer was the opposite of what mine was. I never thought I'd say this out loud, but it makes me REALLY glad that I chose to stay here instead of going off somewhere or back home. My biggest drama this summer was that I didn't get to go to a meditation retreat with Thich Nhat Hanh, and that a teacher snapped at me, which was later resolved. Turns out the guy was just agitated that day. Even running into my nemisi has been pretty peaceful because I just keep moving. I pull out a book written by the teacher I could have castrated last year and the song plays in my head "dun, dun, duuunnnnnnnnn" but instead of reacting bitterly I just mumble something about, "yeah, he WOULD" and I sift through the pages to try and find what I need.

I think I understand that I have to exercise more self-discipline than I did last year, because my course load is going to be a lot more difficult, I don't need drama to detract from my ability to focus, and in that guy's case, I need to be as amicable as I can be to as many people as I can in order to receive approval for my appeal in his class, because his reputation precedes him, and I think that I can use that to my advantage. It helps that I am right, but I don't want to do or say anything that is going to give off the impression that I am out to get this guy (who turns out to have only been here for as long as he has because he acted as the school historian in order to secure his tenure).

As it turns out, I did a little bit of archival work this summer for a project. Of my OWN volition I decided it would be easiest to escape from the office and this cubicle when I needed by looking up more extensive details of the school's earliest historical events by trouping across campus to make a visit to our special collections and archives. Now it's one thing to go and just dig through the relics and compile a bunch of data to put into print, like he did. I think their work really get's put to the test when an actual researcher has to dig through the material to find names and dates in order to work on a project that should take a few hours but ends up taking several weeks. I know I am asking a lot for information prior to 1900 to be properly catalogued, but I've seen it done. Elisabeth Peck did an outstanding job on the book that she wrote on Berea's history. This other guy's books are informative, but the way that the information is catalogued can make it very inaccessible to the reader. I think the most helpful of the books reads more like a registry of names and demographics, which might very well be what he did, than a reference work. Having something listed like birth dates and place of origin would be helpful for a researcher or historian to at least derive clues that might help a person track information to the original source. I think I've been looking for President Stewart's Birthday for 3 days now and because he was born in Scottland in some town that I can't even pronounce, I may not ever find that bit of information.

But cataloging has come a long way. I think the advent of historical societies and cataloging systems has made a tremendous affect upon how we access information even now. It helps me understand a great deal more now about the importance of uniform standards of cataloging and historical preservation. We could create a good deal of jobs just digitizing archives, and arranging the information in a uniform system of maintenance. I think that my background in research and science help me understand the importance of preserving this information as well. It's almost like information is just as important of an artifact as tangible relics, and can be lost in an instant the same way. I know that we talk about creating jobs in energy and conservation, but I think this would be a great way to train out of work artists, writers and office temps to organize information and catalog it as an exercise to give them some of the creative inspiration to put together some pretty great works. I wonder if this has any correlation as to why the church and patrons of the monastic culture always had the ability to put together such great collections of work. I'd almost bet my right foot that it does.

Anyway, these are the kinds of places that my mind wanders now when I'm thinking about what used to be really petty stuff. I feel like I've aged a decade in a span of half the year. It kind of makes me smile, because I'm so obviously becoming cultured, not in the way of the enthusiasts and afficionados, but in the way of an immersed archaeologist who holds the crumbling pieces of paper in her hand, tilting the book on it's spine so as not to shave off the pages from the thinly bound spine. The papers smell old and musty, and one of them, to my delight even had the faint aroma of a beautifully spiced cigar. It was probably pipe tobacco. I look at my old textbooks and see the differences from the ones that I used for math and chinese, in comparison to the other books that I just skimmed through. It makes me remember that every time I pick up a weathered old copy that the book that I am holding was probably loved once, possibly even to the point of sheer disgust. I get to read the quaint little anecdotes from the old Berea Quarterly when President Frost realized how much more marketable it was to promote the "mountain culture" by selling homespun crafts to the New York dandies in order to raise money and donations to the school.

Literature, particularly updated Literature is soooo essential. I think one of the best things this institution ever did was get themselves a printing press. To me the old printing department did more for this college than the brickyard, or any of the other labor programs the school has ever had.

I have a new roommate for a few days and I was lying in bed rambling to her about my plans for finishing school and she told me that she was thinking about doing agricultural extension work for the next year or so after graduation and I had to stop myself from going into an extensive ramble about Berea's Extension program, which is great talk for dinner parties, but not so much when you're getting ready for bed and hopped up on Benadryl. I did mention to her about them taking the wagon out into the mountains to teach the Appalachians (as they're now known, a term coined by Loyal Jones) about farming methods. I didn't tell her that the program was first developed by a woman (whose name escapes me at this time), or that after an incoming student traded one of his mother's quilts for tuition one year that Frost began encouraging mountain women to spin yarn and weave their own quilts that could be sold outside of the region to raise funds for the college, giving birth to the Fireside industries. There are very few buildings on this campus now that I don't know what it's original function was, who donated funds for it and what year it was constructed.

Ironically, and I know that you can't always tell it from these posts that I rush through, but most of the time I am simply a writer, who just happens to have a little bit more experience with nerdware online and multimedia web applications than my boss does, so I get to be the office sleuth. Between Facebook, Google, and print, I can find out a little bit of information on almost anyone, and I think those skills have definitely been honed after working on this project this summer. I only wish I could get some of these coding issues worked out.

For More Info On Berea's History Check Out the DateLine Berea TimeLine


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