Do you love a library? How about public radio?

I love my library – well of course it isn’t mine – it’s ours.  That’s the beauty of a library; by definition a collection of books to be used by multiple readers.  I also love radio, a medium simultaneously expansive and intimate.  This week I had the privilege of marrying those two passions.  I got to talk about how I love the Los Angeles Central Library on the radio.  Thanks to Sarah Harris for making that possible on her show Hear in the City on KPFK.  And that never would have happened if Sarah and I hadn’t run into each other (thankfully not literally)  while riding our bicycles in downtown Los Angelesa year or so ago.  What – you say – people actually bicycle in downtownLos Angeles?!  Yes – I say – this great global city is full of all kinds of unexpected delights…like the library.

Once again, here is the audio link

More art = more life

I have a theory that art actually confers upon humans an evolutionary advantage.  Given the confines of a single body and a single life, a single human is confined to a relatively narrow set of experiences (of course even that narrow set can be stunning and profound).  But art – whether literature, poetry, film, music, sculpture, visual arts, etc. – expands the range of experiences a single human can have.  By participating in art, by receiving it, appreciating it, experiencing it, a single person can live a multiplicity of lives.  So the more art a person experiences, the better equipped a person is to respond to the vagaries of life, the drama of human relationships, the rhythms of life and death.  At least that’s my theory.

Recently I actually came across some data that seems to uphold my ideas.  The Utne reader summarized an article from the Scientific American Mind (Nov. Dec. 2011). 

“Several studies confirm the heightened emotional intelligence of bookworms: In 2006 researchers found that people who read fiction rather than nonfiction can more easily decipher the emotions of others, simply by looking at their eyes.  The following year, researchers discovered that reading a single short story would temporarily improve subjects’ social skills.  And in 2010 they showed that exposure to stories made preschoolers more able to take on the perspectives of others….MRI scans show that when we read fiction, our brains mirror the protagonists’ actions and our emotions swell in response to their plight.”   

So go ahead and read stories, it will probably make you smarter, and it may just give you more life.




A Beautiful Day for Sowing Seeds

The sun was shining in the most delicious, not-yet-searing, way yesterday. I had just cultivated my vegetable fantasies at the garden store, purchasing a dozen packets of seeds, and I was itching to get some in the ground. So I dug up a little soil in my garden – not too much, just the row where I had pulled out the spent spinach – and I planted radishes and soybeans.

And I enjoyed all the promise that comes with such an action, the idea that in a couple of months I would be pulling up little red orbs with white flesh, plucking pods of plump edamame. I demonstrated what Thoreau called ‘Faith in a Seed’. I can be confident that my radish seeds will yield radishes, not carrots, or tomatoes or long-haired rabbits. And I can be sure that once a seed grows, it will transform, it will not remain dormant, life suspended.

Similarly, I plant my first seed, my first post on this blog. So welcome to my word garden, I hope you will come back every so often and see how things are growing. And please let me know if you have any suggestions, maybe your tried and true fertilizer, or your own cultivation rituals, maybe your grandmother’s favorite tomato seeds, and especially your questions. I will look forward to your company here.