Right Words From the Good Book
Every morning on my laptop I receive something called a “Reminder from God” that comes from, well, God only knows. The Internet may be the ultimate mystery.
I’m pretty sure it’s not actually God writing to me, probably someone named Gary or Bernice simply paraphrasing Holy Scripture or an ancient sage. I’m willing to concede, however, that it may actually be God speaking through Gary or Bernice.
As it happens, whoever writes them, these little nuggets of spiritual wisdom amount to a nice way to begin my day, usually around four in the morning when I switch on my home computer to write.
For what it’s worth, Jesus Christ has also been emailing me a lot, too, though I’m pretty sure this isn’t that Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ seems to seriously dislike a surprising number of things, including apostate preachers, women who work outside the home, the Iranians, Barack Obama, evolution, gay people, and certain kinds of insects. He says they’re all going to burn in hell. Hate doesn’t seem to be too strong a word for this Jesus Christ.
Quite frankly, though, he also needs a good editor. The other day, for instance, he emailed this: “Beards are evil. Trust me love one and think of what befells with terrible swiftness the unbelievers who cannot find their way through the swirl of devil things will suffer. Fires and retribution of the Holy Wrath. Watch for crickets or worse. Noisy and a pure nuisance they are.”
Seriously now. Who knew Jesus Christ hated beards, not to mention crickets? I like to think of crickets as one of God’s nicer little inventions, adding a relaxing touch to these warm spring nights, nature’s lullabye. And didn’t the apostles have beards?
To tell you the truth, I’m tempted to email this particular Jesus Christ and ask him to please remove me from his mailing list because all the stuff he seems to hate just gives me a headache and makes me wonder what in the world religion is coming to.
Whoever sends me daily reminders from God, on the other hand, can just keep those sweet messages coming the ether of the Internet. The other morning, for example, there was this tidy gem — seeming to speak straight to my mood about the state of the world these days. “Earth’s intrigues are not for you. Learn of Me. Simplicity brings true rest and peace.”
That’s why, in order to keep things simple, I drove up to Carthage to check out the public library and get a haircut the City Barber Shop.
Carthage is my kind of town, but then I’m the product of rural Carolina preachers and vegetable farmers who probably wonder where evolution went wrong.
There was a wait at City Barber Shop. A pair of young brothers who looked like faces off a corn flakes box were getting their summer haircuts, and a gangly teenager with a mop of blond hair — wearing a baseball uniform — was next in line to get his ears lowered for the start of the season.
“Should only be a few minutes,” my friend Kevin the barber greeted me warmly, saluting with his clippers. Kevin is a great barber but also a world-class sculptor who taught himself how to make spectacular carved tiles, including a remarkable frieze of the Last Supper.
“I’m almost finished up,” chimed in Lee, his fellow barber. “Just take a seat. One of us will get you shortly.”
Instead, I told them I would be back shortly and moseyed around the corner to the Moore County Library on Saunders Street, curious to see what I would find.
Small town libraries are almost all the same. They’re cool on a hot day and generally smell of old books and furniture polish. During my growing-up years, we lived in half a dozen small towns across the South and I can just about remember every library in those towns because I was always in them, reading or looking at picture books and dreaming of the faraway places I would someday go. Public libraries are travel agencies for young imaginations.
I wasn’t at all surprised to see half a dozen kids sitting at a large computer table, surfing the Web or playing computer games I’d mostly likely need a fairly patient 7-year-old to explain to me.
Last Sunday, the Carthage Library held an open house for the Friends of the Moore County Library System. I’d hoped to be there to lend support but was, alas, 100 miles away on a book tour.
According to library supervisor Martha Ferguson, the Carthage library averages about 100 patrons a day and serves as base camp for the Bookmobile that circulates throughout the county. The other libraries in the system include Aberdeen’s Page Memorial and smaller community libraries in Robbins, Vass and Pinebluff. Until last Sunday, the Friends had about 80 regular members, patrons who support the work of the libraries with their time, muscle and money. Their open house netted them about 50 new members who pledged anywhere from $25 to $200 and their other talents.
A cheerful new Children’s Area featuring brightly painted shelves and neatly arranged book bags is the recent handiwork of the Friends, Ferguson pointed out. And County Manager Cary McSwain was personally responsible for rustling up the handsome new display shelves that look as if they might belong in a fancy Barnes and Noble store — and, in fact, once did. If e-readers and Internet books are dealing death blows to mega-bookstores, one theory holds that community libraries may wind up with more than bookshelves.
“Unfortunately, like all public institutions across the state, we've been hit very hard by the cutbacks in funding,” Ferguson said in summing up the challenge, “but we’re fortunate to have a core of a dozen or so Friends who really feel strong about the importance of keeping a healthy public library. They’re more important than ever — always here doing things to make the library better. They let us dream of things that could be.”
At a time when public libraries in some places are under seige — being cut to the bone or even shuttered — it was reassuring to this son of rural Southern libraries who grew up to write books that his own county system is perking along pretty well, all things considered, aided by the assistance of its generous Friends.
After snooping around the bookshelves for a bit, lingering over a volume of Shakespeare’s plays and reading a bit of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” I picked up a pledge brochure and moseyed back up to Courthouse Square thinking I’ll sign up and send a check every so often to help keep these community treasures alive and well. How many people, do you suppose, read Shakespeare for the first time because the bard was in their hometown public library?
Magic of Storytelling
As Lee the barber started on my shaggy head, Kevin the barber — still sculpting the buzz-cut of a small tow-headed patron with an orange sucker — asked me what I’d been up to lately.
I told him I’d been out on the book hustlings but was now pleased to be home on the hunt to find a dozen or more local performers for PineStraw magazine’s upcoming summer solstice lawn party on the shortest night of the year in late June.
“What kind of performers do you want?” an older gent who followed me out of the barbershop with his own summer cut demanded to know.
I told him anything fit for a magical midsummer’s night — magicians, jugglers, singers, fiddlers, dancers, musical prodigies of all kinds, fairie queens and court jesters are all welcome. I explained that I am reserving the role of Robin Goodfellow, the meddlesome Puck, for myself, and that we’re planning this supper on Weymouth’s lawn to be a showcase of local talents young and old, worthy of old Bill Shakespeare’s greatest comedy of manners.
“I play the comb pretty well,” he told me.
“So did my grandfather. That may do nicely,” I said and invited him to get in touch with us at the magazine before we fill completely up with old-fashioned comb players.
I ambled across the square to my car and decided to take a slower and even more rural road back to Southern Pines, feeling a whole lot better about the state of the wider world than when I arrived. It was yet another a nice message from God.
Wouldn’t you know, though, the Internet Jesus Christ had sent me another e-hatemail by the time I got back to my office chair. He was busy hurling unmarried moms, Harry Potter fans and even likeable Mitt Romney into the burning fires of hell.
I wondered what he would make of public libraries that celebrate the magic of storytelling from every kind of culture, not to mention our summer solstice frolics come the shortest night of the year — a celebration, it must be admitted, that has its roots in pagan lore.
I asked myself what the real Jesus Christ would do in this situation. Resisting the temptation to stir him up even more, I simply sent along the timeless wisdom of Puck, the bumbling jester, who notes at the end of the play that love conquers all.
“If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended.”
For information on becoming a Friend of Moore County Libraries, please call (910) 947-5335.
For details of PineStraw’s Summer Solstice Lawn Party, contact the magazine at (910) 692-7271.
Award-winning author Jim Dodson, Sunday essayist with The Pilot and editor of PineStraw magazine, can be reached at email@example.com.
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