"...on whose brightness books shed a blinding dust."
Hmmm. That quote from spiritual thinker Kahlil Gibran suggests he thought poorly of books - odd, since he was in the business of writing them! Is it possible he was wrong? Can books and learning actually burnish the bright glow of youth? Better still, can they help reclaim and nurture the still-youthful dreams of those of us who are decades past what society rigidly defines as "young?" Librarians like to think so.
Along with 65,000+ of my closest friends, I had the good fortune to see rock band U2 live at Soldier Field last Saturday night. It did indeed return me to the beautiful dreams of youth, if only temporarily. I remembered being young enough to stand and dance on a hard metal surface for that many hours without needing a handful of ibuprofen to soften the pain. I remembered telling everybody I was going to be a rock star when I "grew up." I remembered believing that music is a powerful force for positive change in a brutal, joyless world. I still believe that last one. So how can books, how can the Library, help inspire me and you to dream again, to reach for dreams rather than brushing them aside with the paraphernalia of youth?
Books help you learn, books expose you to ideas and places and people you may not be able to meet in person, books inspire, books can become training manuals for DOING. Now, I totally understand that if you spent your childhood dreaming of becoming an astronaut or kung fu action hero, and you're now 54 years old and never studied aeronautics or martial arts, you may have to temper your dreams somewhat. Is that so bad? When I mope that my rock star fantasies remain strictly in my head, good friends remind me that I've been able to sing, professionally but locally, for almost 30 years, so maybe I ought to be grateful instead of whining. Maybe you can become an expert on the planets and stars, visit iFLY in California and experience human body flight, or win the lottery and book your flight on the space shuttle. Maybe you can study and master the martial arts to the best of your abilities and then teach people at the local park district. I used library resources to plan the Singing Librarians' entry in the Des Plaines 4th of July parade, and let me tell you, we felt like rock stars cruising around on that enormous float and getting you to dance in the streets.
Right now, your dreams may be of the more grown-up, practical variety: finding a job, buying a home, raising a family, earning a college degree, putting food on the table. There are more books (and videos) on those topics than you can possibly imagine. Check out a few and see if there's wisdom to be found, motivation to be gained. We have books here on just about every topic, and what we don't own we can borrow from libraries around the world. Reading doesn't have to be a passive, vicarious experience. Get into the Catalog and start searching for your dreams, whether they are the beautiful dreams of youth or the hopeful dreams of right now.