A Headlight through the Wormhole
Over my years as a teacher, I occasionally employed my own particular version of Abraham Lincoln had to walk the circumference of the earth each way to get to school every day. My version addressed the lengths I had to go to in order to learn something new outside of school. My family of limited means did possess several dictionaries, one of them hardcover, most of them still in my possession, including this Webster Vest Pocket, Self Pronouncing (?!) dictionary (De Luxe Edition).
It contains no year of publication, but it resides in my memory at the greatest reaches of my childhood, which would make it somewhere around 1870.
Some of my friends’ families owned the complete World Book Encyclopedia. One or two possessed the more expensive Britannica. My family could not afford an encyclopedia. Thus, if I wanted to access any fund of knowledge other than the definitions of words, I needed to get on a bus and travel to the local public library. By the time I entered graduate school at Columbia, I was living just ten blocks away on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, so I could simply walk to Butler Library, which I did just about every day, losing myself in the stacks or sinking into huge old brown leather club chairs in the periodicals reading room, where I communed – in a pose of crossed legs and cocked head– with the ancients.
This self-amusing routine intended to spur my students to value the extraordinary development that each of them individually possessed via the browsers of their cell phones or laptops – the literally handy wormhole to a vast universe of knowledge. Contrary to many of my colleagues, I encouraged students to browse while I taught (Yes, they could be planning a hookup or hawking contraband in Kathmandu, but they could simply be daydreaming offline, too – you can’t control minds.) Nothing garnered more enthused praise from me than an interruption with the findings of a real-time search relative to what I was at that moment, or the previous, talking about.
All this leads me to say that I spend large amounts of my own time spinning and somersaulting through that world-wide-web wormhole – down rabbit holes, too – which enables me, among my other happy services on Homo Vitruvius, to share some of my findings with my readers. You may think of me as a modern-day, human Lycos or Alta Vista. (Huh?, you’re thinking. See that search bar up above? There you go.) The difference is you cannot query me. I just spit out what I spit out. For instance, . . .