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Life Arts    H3'ed 5/21/13

Little Free Libraries: A Community Builder for the Future?

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Ours is a world grounded in the philosophy of reductionism. Wikapedia identifies reductionism as a philosophical position which holds that a complex system is nothing but the sum of its parts, and that an account of it can be reduced to accounts of individual constituents. This can be said of objects, phenomena, explanation, theories, and meanings. The philosphy of reductionism is part and parcel of a more holistic movement that has saturated the western world since at least the time of Descartes, and, according to many, Plato. It is a fundamental meme of industrial-technological culture. It is this author's belief that reductionism has been used in accordance to the "divide and conquer"ethos as evidenced by the divisive arguments and theatrics of mainstream news shows on Fox, CNN, and others. It is in this fashion that they are able to keep the population mesmerized in drama shows, while also presenting commercials that are often sexualized and which place human beings into roles of being mindless clowns who maintain a physical model of a person who is anorexic. These advertisers count and define (confine) us as "consumers."

In modern days, reductionistic and divisive philosophy continues to remain unquestioned in the mainstream culture. However, in recent years, the development of systems thinking has provided methods for tackling issues in a holistic rather than a reductionist way, and many scientists understand the unity of the whole. These are people like physicist David Bohm, neurologist Carl Pribram, and psychiatrist Carl Jung. The beauty of understanding the work of people like Bohm, Jung and and Pribram is that one can see this pattern mirrored in the variety of expressions of the reductionistic mindset. In other words, behind all the various reductionistic ways of viewing the world, there is a pattern. While most people are pretty much unconscious of this pattern of looking at life, many philosophers, visionaries, and even economists and entrepreneurs are deconstructing the pernicious memes that blind us to holism.

This evolving holistic view is expressed beautifully by epistemologist Gregory Baeston who discusses our need to "identify the pattern that connects." As part of this pattern of not knowing the pattern, we have lost our ability to understand the wholeness of Nature and how everything works in its life and death for the sake of the planetary system. Everything relates. As Baeston asks: What pattern connects the crab to the lobster and the orchid to the primrose and all the four of them to me? And me to you?"

We, en mass, simply do not get the patterns that connect; we remain in thrall to a corporate-induced hypnosis. This occurs across the spectrum of our lives and includes how we interact in community with the rest of the world. In this world dominated by reductionistic philosophy--especially in politics, corporate behavior and behavioral sciences--we have diminished the power of individuals and their communities to become self sufficient and expressive. What has happened instead is that we have kindled and allowed a world to unfold in which we have become dominated by global market systems and large scale governance. We have succumbed to empire, blind to the fact that the emperor has no clothes. Reductionism via capitalism has conquered the world yet maintains a "this vs that" attitude as evidenced by the continuous conflicts in the middle east and throughout the world. We consider all pockets of resistance to our mass hypnosis as uncivilized, primitive, subversive, terrorist, or just plain wrong. We are induced to fear and, therefore, either obliterate or convert them to our orthodoxy.

There is hope; however. In today's world, we have visionaries of a more holographic reality that (a) are cognizant of their own patterns and (b) counter the unconscious and prevalent patterns exhibited by reductionistic thought. Some of these include movements such as Transition Town, Permaculuture, and Little Free Libraries. While to the observer locked into the reductionistic model of Nature can't see the pattern, those that see the holographic and can gaze upon these diverse expressions and find a unifying thread, in much the same way Baetson saw the pattern that connects lobsters, crabs, orchids, and primrose to us! Perhaps this is also reflected in many spiritual teachings regarding the "Flower of Life" throughout various mythologies of the world? (see link below for more information)

The connective purpose of these movements is to help people understand the relationship of part to whole while also serving to develop local communities that function harmonically with Nature. They also subscribe to empowering individuals within their communities, rather than fostering a dependence upon corporate-run governments.

One rapidly growing part of this new flowering is Little Free Libraries, whose primary goals are to:

  • Promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.

  • Build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity, and wisdom across generations

  • Build more than 2,510 libraries around the world - more than Andrew Carnegie--and then more.

Little Free Library Beginning in Africa by Little Free Library
People are loving it. More than 500 new Little Free Libraries (LFLs) crop up monthly on lawns, along routes, and at busy intersections worldwide! The New York Times calls then "miniature lending libraries where anyone can take or leave a book under the honor system."

The originators of the Little Free Library are Todd Bol and Rick Brooks, both of whom have several decades of entrepreneurial and international experience. They first met in 2009 while exploring the benefits of green practices in small businesses, discovering that they shared a commitment to service and the quality of community life around the world. In so many ways, the concept of the Little Free Libraries mimick the holographic concept of the part mirrors the whole. The libraries also align with those recognizing the importance of understanding the local impact of global patterns.

Todd Bole is described as a pioneer in international trade, business and nursing education. It appears his talents go even deeper, for Todd also applies his carpentry and business skills when he built the initial library dedicated to his deceased mom, a librarian. Soon Todd used his craft to build creative multiformed LFLs tailored to each community's personality, while also fostering the spirit of an individual library to reach out into the community. Todd is thus described as a possibility thinker. If any readers who are also possibility thinkers want to contact Todd regarding the building of a library, the phone number and email is listed below.

Rick Brooks, his partner in the LFL venture, has helped raise funds for village libraries in Sri Lanka and Mexico. Rick has been a long time supporter of literacy, social empowerment, youth and community development. Rick facilitates contacts with media, academic and nonprofit colleagues as well as potential sponsors. He recently retired as an Outreach Program Manager in Continuing Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison. 608-345-0750 Email address removed

According to Todd, once the Little Free Library is established in a state (or country), then can expect requests for five to ten more units to be stewarted by inspired individuals in different neighborhoods. More important than location, a library needs a strong community stewart who is able to communicate clearly about the library. Thus it appears that with the libraries, its not just about "location, location, location," but "person, person, person." Each thriving healthy Little Free Library requires a strong sterwart who is both a lover of books and community-minded. So we can add, it's all about "relationship, relationship, relationship!" Could this also become our motto in how we treat the environment, as well as each other? Or do we continue to lead the divisive ethos of reductionism which leads to isolation and alienation, fear of stranger-danger, and perhaps even the extinction of the human race?

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Burl Hall is a retired counselor who is living in a Senior Citizen Housing apartment. Burl has one book to his credit, titled "Sophia's Web: A Passionate Call to Heal our Wounded Nature." For more information, search the book on Amazon. (more...)
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