Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people. - Eleanor Roosevelt

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

How my brain works and how the library oils this ol' engine

This morning I got an e-mail notification from the library alerting me I had two overdue items. I have been checking out materials at the library, despite how busy I am, but I haven't been checking my account or renewing anything. Today was the day I decided to log on and renew what I could renew and find out what needs to go back ASAP. Now, I know that I have pretty high fines in the neighborhood of $21 and some odd cents. I know this because the last time I tried to check out something I couldn't because of my really high balance. I paid a little bit of the fine that day and went about my merry way. My fines have gone up considerably now, because the library seems to think that two overdue books are just plain lost, so they're charging me their full price, plus the late fines. That makes the $21 jump to a whopping $82.61.

It is no secret that I use my local library heavily. I'm sure that if some need arose for someone to investigate my interests and obssessions (and of course my ability to keep my accounts in order), the library would provide a perfect window and timeline into how my scattered brain works, even more so than the people I share my life with. Before I moved to where I live now libraries to me were the stereotypical old and dusty buildings with a musty smell in the air and old spinster librarians with lipstick on their teeth who love to shush you and glare at you over their bifocals. In high school, the library was the place I got into the most trouble, because I would go with friends with the intention of doing homework but end up doing anything but that and get kicked out by a librarian. As much as I enjoyed reading back then, I never checked out a book to read for pleasure. Required reading might've had a lot to do with that, but nonetheless, I still liked to read enough that I went out and bought whatever book I wanted to read, keeping the library in my psyche as just a quiet place with a reference section.

I never imagined that I would one day be a regular at the library with a tote full of hardback, plastic covered materials hanging from my arm as I browse and end up with a tall, chin skimming collection of books and other media to check out. More importantly, I never thought I'd be one to do this for pleasure. I honestly don't know whether this change in my reading habits (I read an insane amount more now than I did when I was younger) was brought on by my moving to a county that maintains an impressive library in my neighborhood, or if my growing passion for writing induced it; all I know is, between the ever-growing internet that has become a virtual and abundant reference section and my neighborhood library, I am always feeding my constant curiosity and teaching myself new things.

Just to give you an idea of what kinds of things interest(ed) me that I searched for and found at the library, here is a very mini and personal research project that began in a most unlikely place to inspire the use of a library. This is just how my brain works...

After watching the 2006 World Cup and seeing the Portuguese and Angolan teams surprise, wow and make history with their mad mad mad skills at football (soccer), I became intrigued with more than just the players from the teams. I was intrigued with these countries that incidentally shared a language and history. At first I used Google and Wikipedia to learn the basics of each country, but found that I wanted to know a lot more. And so, the search began for materials on Portugal, a power that took Africa by storm during the age of discovery, which I had read about in an illustrated history book when I was a kid and logged away in the recesses of my mind. Through my light research inspired by a game of football, I found out that in 1755 Portugal's capitol, Lisbon, had suffered a devastating earthquake that was then followed by a tsunami that nearly wiped out the city. I found this out shortly after the big tsunami disaster had hit southeast Asia, so the intrigue turned into an obssession with this country that sits on the western-most tip of Europe with the vast Atlantic Ocean in its horizon and Spain as its neighbor. During my reading immersion in everything Portuguese, from food to music, I remembered something that someone had told me about the Portuguese language-- that it was Spanish mixed with French. Well, I thought, let's take a look. The library had a great collection of books and DVDs about Portugal as well as, to my delight, several Portuguese langage aides, including the
Teach Yourself series, a great resource for anything your heart desires to learn. Luckily, Teach Yourself also publishes books about countries that cover, with great detail, the social, cultural, religious and gastronomic elements of a place. It was through Teach Yourself that I found out about Portugal's rocky relationship with Spain, which goes a long way back in history and manifests itself still with proverbs inspired by historical rifts involving Spain wanting to take over Portugal and Portugal foiling such plans on several occassions. In other words, these two countries share a border, but though they are "friends" now, there are still echoes from the past heard through proverbs. Here is one proverb that stuck with me:

De Espanha, nem bom vento nem bom casamento.
From Spain, neither good wind nor good marriage.

Now, the wind part refers to the East winds coming from Spain that cause storms. The marriage part, however, has deeper historical roots than mere weather. It is a really interesting story and one that I read about in the Teach Yourself book about Portugal. I hate to say I can't remember the details, as the hunger pangs for all things Portuguese began in 2006 and have calmed down a bit. What I do remember is that the marriage bit of the proverb is in reference to a union between Portuguese and Spanish royalty and an awful case of separation anxiety involving the physical keeping of the queen's corpse on the throne.

Now, I don't remember every detail from my research obviously, but I know a lot of things about a lot of things and places that most people don't. First, because I've always been an arm chair historian and small-scale researcher to satsify personal curiosity, and second, because I know how to reap the benefits of my local library.

So, I said something about how my brain works and I believe I've woven quite the tapestry to demonstrate that it just keeps going on and on.

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