Monday, November 23, 2015

Books, Kids, Holidays

It's that time of year again, where we all start to feel the crunch of the holiday season with all of its to-dos and busyness.  In the midst of this, there are moments where we often find ourselves pausing to think... about our own lives, about what we have and are thankful for, about those moments and memories of this time of year that are special and cherished, and the people who once were and those who will continue to be a part of those memories. Beyond everything else about the season, this pause is the priceless part. It's the part that has good people around the world reaching out to share some of that with someone else. We buy gifts, meals, do small acts of kindness, and reach out to others.
The TVCC Library has a way to help you share in this season of thankfulness, giving, and sharing. For the past few years, the College's student organization has led a book drive to give books to children in our community. With the help of teachers at local schools, kids in need of a book who might not have the opportunity to read at home were identified and members of our campus community bought them a book for Christmas. In 2014, the Library took over this program. We branched out to the community as well as the number of students we were reaching and were able to put almost 200 books into the hands of kids to brighten their Christmas.

This year, we are going to do so much more. TVCC, the Library, and all of those on our campus are but one part of this community. So this year, the Library is reaching out to the whole community for help and participation in this event.  We want you all to help give the gift of reading this holiday season.

What buying a child a book does?  What is this gift of reading that we are talking about?  Why books?  Besides the fact that the TVCC Library is sponsoring this program, and we naturally believe in reading, here’s what buying a book does.  It gives a child the gift of imagination, joy, inspiration, creativity, knowledge, laughter, hope, and excitement.  A book can do all of that.  A book also keeps alive the spark inside a child that wants to learn, to explore, to find out more about life and the world around them.  We all believe in the power of education and books are a vital part of that.  Yes, reading does all of this.  And a book from a stranger to a child shows them that someone in their community believes in them, even just a little. 
Have we convinced you yet to be a part of the Library’s Book Tree drive?  Here’s how to help.  Through some excellent community partners, we have been able to place trees around Ontario where you can find a tag that has a child and their reading wishes on it.  Choose a tag, buy a book.  It’s that simple.  Return the book and tag to any of the locations and we will make sure it is wrapped and placed in the hands of that child.  You can find tags and return your books to the following locations:  TVCC Library, TVCC Science Center, TVCC Barber Hall, Ontario Community Library, Andrew’s Seed Co., Jolts & Juice Coffee Co., World Fitness Gym, Sorbenots Coffeehouse.  This is a small and easy way that all of our community can come together and make a big impact on the children here.
Want to help but aren’t really up for book shopping?  Are you a business owner or community member that wants to help in a bigger way?  We can do that too.  You can send donations to the TVCC Library and we will put our thrifty book buying powers to work to make the most of every dollar you give. 
This year, we are planning on putting nearly a thousand books into the hands of children who need them.  As one part of this community, the college library cannot do this.  As a whole community, we most certainly can. 
The Book Drive starts Wednesday, November 25, 2015.  All books need to be turned in by Monday, December 14th.

Monday, November 16, 2015


I woke up from a disturbed sleep, actually remembering what I dreamt about for much of the night. I was somewhere other than our library, asking little children to write out what they were thankful for, on tiny index cards. It was proving to be quite the challenge. And you know right when you wake up from dreams sometimes, and you think you really did all that was in  your dream? It took me a few minutes to reorient myself back to “reality.”

Asking adults what they are grateful or thankful for can be a challenge as well. One would think we would be thankful for some of the same things: family, friends, employment, a roof under our heads, having a spiritual force in our lives. Many are thankful for the freedoms we have in our lives, and owe that to the armed forces: this month when we are especially thankful, coincides with a day of remembrance and honoring our war veterans.
As human beings, in a world of disparities and various kinds of strife, we are in different places as far as gratefulness goes. As far as happiness goes. We struggle with the faults in the roofs over our heads. Or we are estranged from our families. Or we struggle with finding work and ensuring our basic survival. Homelessness abounds. So many struggle with finding that sense of inner peace, and happiness that is part of thankfulness. Or thankfulness that is part of happiness. Or both!
Woody Allen responded to a question someone asked about his outlook on life at a press conference, at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, “I do feel that it’s a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience and that the only way that you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies and deceive yourself.” In such an experience, where the only path to happiness is through deception, is it possible to find the good? To be thankful?
Speaking as someone who may not fully embrace Woody Allen’s view of life, but who is closer to such a view than to optimism, I believe it is. I agree with Frederic Lenoir’s assessment that it is possible to reduce the negative character of our thoughts, while approaching life with greater gusto. And in doing so, we can be thankful for a number of things. We can find the good in the actions of certain people.
 I have been able to find the good in the actions of total strangers who are strangers no more. These strangers saw me walking, assumed that I was in difficulty, stopped their cars and introduced themselves so they could offer me a ride. From that day forward, each time they saw me walking, they would stop and offer a ride, and it was difficult to refuse their kindness, even when all I wanted to do was walk. During those rides, we have been getting to know one another. One day I told one of my new friends that I needed to find a way to stop people from wanting to give me a lift. He, a Pastor at one of the churches in town, gently admonished me for wanting to take away the blessing of being able to help someone. This makes me think of what Heather Lende writes in Find The Good:
                        I believe gratitude comes from a place in your soul that knows the story could
                        have ended differently, and often does, and I also know that gratitude is at the
                        heart of finding the good in this world -- especially in our relationships with the
                        ones we love. I see proof of this all the time. (Lende, 60)
I am filled with gratitude for what my new friends do for me, but they are blessed with gratitude as well, for letting a stranger into their lives and their cars. And so gratitude truly is at the heart of “finding the good” in this world.
Here’s what some folks have said about gratitude:
                        “Gratitude is the memory of the heart.” -- Jean-Baptiste Massieu
                        “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but
                        rejoices for those which he has.” -- Epicetus
                        “Gratitude is the best attitude.” - Unknown
                        “Two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind we feel for what we take; the larger
                        kind for what we give.” -- Edwin Arlington Robinson
                        “Wherever I have knocked, a door has opened. Wherever I have wandered, a path
                        has appeared.” - Alice Walker
                        “I feel a very unusual sensation -- if it is not indigestion, I think it must be
                        gratitude.” -- Benjamin Disraeli
                        “Who does not thank for little, will not thank for much.” -- Estonian Proverb
                        “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation
                        is not to utter words, but to live by them.” -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy
                        “We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude.” --
                        Cynthia Ozick
                        “Gratitude is merely the secret hope of future favors.” -- François de La
Here’s to being thankful for what we do have. And thank you for what you have to share with us: your love of the written word, and more.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Women in Love
When I was in high school, I cannot remember what year exactly, one of my Christmas gifts that year was an omnibus edition of D.H. Lawrence novels. I may have heard of Lawrence before that voluminous book came my way, but once I read the novels contained in that edition, I wanted to read more of him, and about him.

When we read Lawrence now, some of us may marvel at the skill of his writing, at how much psychology is at work in all of his novels, or how he writes of the human condition. Back when he was writing, however, Lawrence could not get published for the things he wrote about. His works were controversial for the candid way in which he treated sex. He often had to do revisions and some publishers refused to publish his work. Today when we read his work, we may wonder what all the hoopla was about, but mores were different in the England post-World War I. As recently as the 1980s, Lady Chatterley’s Lover was banned in China for fear of “corrupting the minds of young people”, and “going against the Chinese tradition.” In the 1960’s, a group called Mothers United for Decency, got a trailer, turned it into a “smutmobile” and displayed books considered objectionable, including Sons and Lovers. This novel closely examines working-class conditions in a mining town, as well as relationships. It also has significance vis-à-vis psychology in that it depicts the Freudian oedipal complex. What was once considered smut, is now considered one of the finest books of the 20th century.

My favorite novel by D.H. Lawrence remains Women in Love. It is a sequel to The Rainbow, but it can be read apart from that. It is the story of two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen, and their relationships with Rupert Birkin and Gerald Crich, respectively. This novel was published two years after the end of World War I. Reading it, we see a world in

 crisis, or humans in crisis, through the conversations of certain characters, such as Ursula and Birkin. We see Lawrence digging deeper in search of a more vital life, a life fully lived in every way. Not as he felt many people were living in his day. In the passage below, Birkin expresses his feeling for humanity at present:

            Birkin looked at the land, at the evening, and was thinking: “Well if mankind is
            destroyed, if our race is destroyed like Sodom, and there is this beautiful evening
            with the luminous land and trees, I am satisfied. That which informs it all is there,
            and can never be lost. After all, what is mankind but just one expression of the
            incomprehensible. And if mankind passes away, it will only mean that this particular
            expression is completed and done. That which is expressed, and that which is to be
            expressed, cannot be diminished. There it is, in the shining evening. Let mankind
            pass away—time it did. The creative utterances will not cease, they will only be
            there. Humanity doesn’t embody the utterance of the incomprehensible any more.
            Humanity is a dead letter. There will be a new embodiment, in a new way. Let
            humanity disappear as quick as possible. (Lawrence 50-51)

What Birkin is hoping for is a new humanity, with a new expression. Not the old, tired ways of doing things. What precedes this thought process is Birkin’s dissatisfaction with the way people live life now, calling it “dreary.” He suggests breaking up society altogether to form something new, to change. How he intends to do that is never quite certain. Whatever it may be, will be different from the social order that exists.

It is this digging in search of a deeper meaning or fulfilment of life that gives Women in Love its flavor. There is much more to Women in Love than women being in love. It is an exploration of the possibilities of different kinds of love. It is a conversation on how to be fully alive.  If you like philosophical discussions as well as psychological explorations, I recommend this book that remains on the list of Banned and Challenged Classics.