Congratulations on the new library, because it isn’t just a library. It is a space ship that will take you to the farthest reaches of the Universe, a time machine that will take you to the far past and the far future, a teacher that knows more than any human being, a friend that will amuse you and console you—and most of all, a gateway, to a better and happier and more useful life.
~ Isaac Asimov from, https://www.openculture.com/2022/12/isaac-asimov-on-how-libraries-can-radically-change-your-life-1971.html
This tiny little post, which is written around Asimov’s short note quoted above, launched me in off in multiple directions. A library. Asimov. A type–written note. Even Asimov still made typing mistakes—how fast must he have been able to type after all those years of writing? What type writer did he use? Every now and then I feel like getting a type writer—but I spin off into looking at typefaces, and what the heck would I actually do with a type writer? OMG no I’m not going to start type writing the slips in the slipbox. (Because that’d be insane, and because hand writing the slips is part of the point since it reinforces learning. I don’t think typing would do that.) And I keep thinking I never got around to building the library/reading space that as a kid I’d always dreamed of. So many ideas. So little time.
In his free time, …~ Shane Parrish from, https://fs.blog/2016/03/prolific-mr-asimov/
I mean, I knew Asimov wrote a lot. But it turns out I had no clue how much. I’ve read a bunch of his science fiction back in the day, but I’ve never read any of his other writings, and there’s no way I ever will. And really, that’s ok. Because trying to be a “completist” leads to a lot of wasted time. Instead, a little of this, some of that, a dash of variety, and some spice of life. Festina lente.
It’s hard to quarrel with that ancient justification of the free press: “America’s right to know.” It seems almost cruel to ask, ingenuously, “America’s right to know what, please? Science? Mathematics? Economics? Foreign languages?” None of those things, of course. In fact, one might well suppose that the popular feeling is that Americans are a lot better off without any of that tripe.~ Isaac Asimov from (Newsweek Jan 21, 1980) https://media.aphelis.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/ASIMOV_1980_Cult_of_Ignorance.pdf
tripe n. 2: something poor, worthless, or offensive
That’s the second definition, and is clearly the one Asimov was using. For some reason, I believe I would have said that the first definition had something to do with fish. (It does not.)
In addition, suspecting that Asimov knew a thing or three more than me, had not made a capitalization error in writing “mandarin minority”—you’ll have to click now, won’t you?—I spent several minutes in my Dictionary and learned a second thing.
And finally a third thing: 1980. 2021. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
In response to the question, “Do you think we can educate ourselves, that any one of us, at any time, can be educated in any subject that strikes our fancy?” Isaac Asimov responded:
The key words here are “that strikes our fancy.” There are some things that simply don’t strike my fancy, and I doubt that I can force myself to be educated in them. On the other hand, when there’s a subject I’m ferociously interested in, then it is easy for me to learn about it. I take it in gladly and cheerfully…~ Isaac Asimov, from “His Hopes for the Future (Part Two),” https://billmoyers.com/content/isaac-asimov-part-two/
[What’s exciting is] the actual process of broadening yourself, of knowing there’s now a little extra facet of the universe you know about and can think about and can understand. It seems to me that when it’s time to die, there would be a certain pleasure in thinking that you had utilized your life well, learned as much as you could, gathered in as much as possible of the universe, and enjoyed it. There’s only this one universe and only this one lifetime to try to grasp it. And while it is inconceivable that anyone can grasp more than a tiny portion of it, at least you can do that much. What a tragedy just to pass through and get nothing out of it.
To grasp a tiny portion of it.
I’ve never had any delusions of grandeur—ok, sure, fine. I probably did in my youth. But currently, I do not now have delusions of grandeur. I’m not trying to leave a grand legacy or solve something in math or physics that will earn me a place in the pantheon of science.
I want to enjoy a few simple things, I want to appreciate the fruit of a lot of hard work and luck. Lots of smiling would be nice. Playing with my friends would be cool. I want to make that, “huh,” sound more often; Do you know that sound? It’s that little puff of curiosity one emits when some bit of knowledge clicks into place, or you realize there’s a small patch of your thinking which isn’t as illuminated as you had thought. It’s often followed by, “that’s interesting.”
When is the last time you made that noise?