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!