This blog represents most of the newspaper columns (appearing in various Colorado Community Newspapers and Yourhub.com) written by me, James LaRue, during the time in which I was the director of the Douglas County Libraries in Douglas County, Colorado. (Some columns are missing, due to my own filing errors.) This blog covers the time period from April 11, 1990 to January 12, 2012.

Unless I say so, the views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They may be quoted elsewhere, so long as you give attribution. The dates are (at least according my records) the dates of publication in one of the above print newspapers.

The blog archive (web view) is in chronological order. The display of entries, below, seems to be in reverse order, new to old.

All of the mistakes are of course my own responsibility.

Wednesday, December 9, 1998

December 9, 1998 - In Pursuit of Peace

Stop me if you've heard this one. You're doing more and more racing around. If you're a white collar worker, you're slipping in late from one meeting and sliding out early to make another.

Or consider traffic. Recently someone asked me where young families hang out around here. "In minivans," I said, and my family is no exception. If you have any driving to do (or to put it another way, if you live in Douglas County) you're either tearing through traffic, sitting in traffic, or fiddling with your car to get it ready for traffic.

Or think about Christmas shopping. No, on second thought, don't. Don't think about your Christmas card list, either. If you're reading this column at all, it's not to have somebody add to the guilt and stress you're already carrying.

Enough. What nobody talks about these days -- in part because no one has the time -- is the pursuit of peace.

I have a friend back east who learned a hard lesson. He had a tendency to focus on just one thing -- whether a job or a hobby -- until he totally burned himself out. Then it was on to the next obsession. Finally his wife told him something that he never forgot: the secret to peace was two things to worry about.

I remember a slim volume I read some 35 years ago, which I think my mom got from the Book of the Month Club. It was written by Winston Churchill. Churchill, I think it's safe to say, was an overachiever. He wrote that it was hard for him to be idle. If he wanted to find refreshment -- and there were times when he desperately required it -- he just turned to something else, something intensely involving and demanding. In his case, it happened to be painting. Others may turn to different art forms: music, say, or dance.

Judging from health club memberships, many people at least intend to find peace in physical activity -- "working out."

Some people find refreshment in travel. Probably, nothing that happens in a human community in the remotest corner of the globe is much different from what happens in your home town. But travel wakes you up, gives you perspective. Some people travel to make sociological observations, and find that those observations have surprising validity back home.

Others travel just to get another landscape in their heads. I think of the trip my wife pushed me to take earlier this year to the Pacific Northwest. There I was utterly absorbed in a landscape of water and the tallest trees -- it broke the spell of too much focus on work in Colorado. It brought me, as she intended, a measure of peace.

Some find "surcease of sorrow" in prayer, meditation, or some other spiritual exercise. The quest is for states of attunement -- a pause in life that listens to what's happening inwardly, rather than reacting to the insistent rhythms of the external life.

But for those who can't afford to travel, don't have a lick of artistic ability, are bored by recreation centers, and don't feel particularly drawn to any religious pursuit, there's still a way to change the channel of your life that doesn't involve total vegetation in front of the television.

You can go to the library.

You have my most solemn promise that none of our libraries will pipe in Christmas carols. If you just sit quietly in your library chair, our staff will leave you alone.

It happens that reading is a marvelous path to peace. It lifts you out of the troubles of your life. It allows you to follow a host of new interests, all without spending a dime.

At a time in our society's life -- and perhaps yours -- when everything is rush rush rush, the public library serves no purpose so important as providing a place where you can seek peace, as no one else but you defines it.

There's a word for that. Sanctuary.

No comments:

Post a Comment