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It’s the end of the year: a time of thinking over what’s gone by, and of all there is to come.
As 2014 comes to a close, we’ve been revisiting the words we loved this year. Here’s a simple gathering of quotations (whether funny, thoughtful, beautiful, wry, or otherwise) that were enjoyed by a few of our staff members. We hope you’re reading (or listening, audiobook fans!) and loving words too, and that your new year will be as full of wonderful new words and ideas.
“At the outset, Verna had not intended to kill anyone.”
“I call for help in silence; I make signals with the two arms of my soul, which are softer than algae, not, of course, to some friend firmly planted on the ground, but to a kind of crystallization of the tenderness whose seeming hardness makes me believe in its eternity.”
“And just as music is the space between notes, just as the stars are beautiful because of the space between them, just as the sun strikes raindrops at a certain angle and throws a prism of color across the sky–so the space where I exist, and want to keep existing, and to be quite frank I hope I die in, is exactly this middle distance: where despair struck pure otherness and created something sublime.”
“I want to thank you for coming out of the closet. Again and again, over and over, for the rest of your life. At school, at work, at your kid’s daycare, at your brother’s wedding, at the doctor’s office. Thank you for sideswiping their stereotypes. I never get the chance to come out of the closet because my closet was always made of glass.”
“For if Jack Buggit could escape from the pickle jar, if a bird with a broken neck could fly away, what else might be possible? Water may be older than light, diamonds crack in hot goat’s blood, mountaintops give off cold fire, forests appear in mid-ocean, it may happen that a crab is caught with the shadow of a hand on its back, and that the wind be imprisoned in a bit of knotted string. And it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery.”
At the age of 19, Patrick Leigh Fermor walked across Europe in 1933-34. Here he has just entered a barn in Germany where he will spend a snowy winter’s night:
“The composite smell of snow, wood, dust, cobwebs, mangolds, beetroots, fodder, cattlecake and cows’ breath was laced with an ammoniac tang from the plip-plop and the splash that sometimes broke the rhythm of the munching and the click of horns.”
“But now the snowplough’s thunder signals itself, and I watch the revolving yellow light reflect upward into white prodigious air, and hear the great bruising barge roar and rumble past the house as a steel plow swooshes high waves of whiteness up and over the gutter almost to the front of the house, and buries the mailbox.”
Over the last 18 months, the Choose Civility Initiative, in concert with many community partners (see partial list below) has explored a central query — what does civility mean when the goal is to increase civic engagement and participation among all members of a community?
Lift360 Maine Humanities Council League of Women Voters Elders for Future Generations West End Neighborhood Association USM Economics Department Coalition on the Commemoration of the 1964 Civil Rights Act ACLU of Maine
Collective definitions of civility have almost always begun with the concept of “respect” — respect for differing points of view, differing identities, differing ways of being in the world. This conversation often begs for deeper listening – our individual experiences of “respect” can differ and a central tenant of diversity and social justice education is the recognition that intention and impact can differ.
Peeling back “respect” often opens us to the value of curiosity. The practice of civility and civic engagement depend on some element of shared learning among members of a community. The Choose Civility Initiative quickly found that participants have a deep and abiding interest in sustained conversation – that the opportunity to learn from “experts” and from each other are equally important. Curiousity leads to increased empathy and the strengthening of the skill of “listening for understanding.” Our Choose Civility collection of 125 titles explores many topics and and our programming emphasizes opportunities for conversation among attendees.
Photo Credit : Sarah Davis Ground Rules Generated “Creating Communities We Wish To Live In” December 2014
In some times and places, a call for “civility” can be understood as code for a call to “quiet down,” to suppress controversial ideas or dissent. Portland Public Library embraces a much more rich and inclusive meaning of civility – civility is the value that allows full exploration of ideas, popular and unpopular; civility creates a climate where dissent can be expressed without fear of retaliation or violence; civility allows opportunities for clear and fair access to information that shapes the policy decisions that effect us all. As our larger community engages in debate and discussion about our values, we are Choosing Civility. As we share our own understanding of the word and listen hard to the stories of others, we are Choosing Civility. As we give of ourselves, as we advocate, as we serve, as we learn, as we appreciate our community, we Choose Civility.
We are grateful to the hundreds of individuals who participated in Choose Civility programming over the last 18 months and we look forward to continuing these conversations in 2015!
EVENT POSTPONED DUE TO WEATHER, new date will be announced at a later time. Our apologies for any inconvenience.
The Library’s Choose Civility Initiative began with the premise that we ALL share an interest in creating, maintaining and engaging in shared spaces and shared conversations about our broader community. We have engaged in all kinds of conversations over the last 18 months, some directly reflecting on the idea of civility and some giving us the chance to practice civility while discussing more controversial topics.
As our grant from the Lerner Foundation comes to an end, we will consider various strategies for maintaining Choose Civility programming at the Library. We welcome your feedback about the kinds of programs you like best — send us an email or look for a survey soon!
We are delighted to share the news that Lift360, one of our grant partners, will take leadership on a next phase of the initiative – organizing task forces to implement civic action.
More than anything, though, weinvite you to attend our final “Portland Public Conversation” onDecember 9th at 8:00am(coffee begins at 7:30) to explore these queries in person: what is the status of “civility” in Portland? How might we strengthen our community through individual and organizational practices? Join us for “Picturing Portland” and share your insights and ideas!!!
Below are some of the programs we offered through this grant. What did you attend? What did you like best? What would you like to see more of?
Civic Action in Portland : A Community Conversation
Incivility Fatigue with Professor Dan Shea
Welcoming : Creating More Welcoming Communities, a World Cafe conversation
Welcoming : Posters for Citizenship Ceremony with “I’m Your Neighbor”
Constitution USA : A Film Screening
Capital in the 21st Century Book Discussion // Inequality for All Film Discussion
The Guilty Pleasure of Erotica : a facilitated conversation
Facilitation Workshop offered by Anne Schink of the League of Women Voters
“Creating the Communities We Wish For” with Maine Humanities Council
Active Hope : A Book Discussion
Civic Writing : Workshops on writing letters to the editor, op-eds, blog posts, tweets and more
Civic Education and New Mainers – Addressing the Gaps — a community conversation convened in partnership with LWV
Muslim Journeys – a film series in partnership with Maine Humanities Council
Celebrating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – coalition programming
Portland Public Conversation Series : Portland’s People, Participating in Portland and Picturing Portland