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Index Librorum Prohibitorum

A book is the only place in which you can examine a fragile thought without breaking it, or explore an explosive idea without fear it will go off in your face. It is one of the few havens remaining where a man’s mind can get both provocation and privacy.

~Edward P. Morgan

Today ends Banned Book Week.  Can you stand just one more rant from yours truly?  I know I already did that yesterday; but it’s important because it speaks to our basic and most beautiful right to not only express ourselves but to seek out kindred hearts and thinkers.  It also happens to speak to our human right to learn and grow and self-actuate.  So lets have at it just one more time … what do you say?  And then I’ll exercise my First Amendment rights tomorrow (or maybe the next day) to write you something really dirty and juicy.

So once upon a time & a few years back, when I was writing regularly for Sex Kitten (and I may be doing so again … so stay tuned), I wrote the piece below.  Most of you here haven’t seen it and I think it stands the test of time, so here you go:

Banned in Boston, Condemned in Cleveland

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the Library: My 451 on Freedom of Speech, Libraries, The First Amendment and Banned Book

In a perfect world, those who screw with The First Amendment would be sentenced to careers-without-parole as testers in ball gag factories. And why not? Why not let them see what it feels like for a change. Just a thought. Or maybe they want to take that away from us too?

Sadly, when it comes to Freedom of Speech, sometimes the last place we’ve been able to find it is in our libraries.

Which seems kind of weird, don’t you think? Shouldn’t at least The Library be hallowed ground? A quasi-church for those of us who actually know how to think on our feet and our knees? And even in between? For those of us who believe that truth is earned, truth is fluid, truth is personal? For those of us who know we will bleed more than we will ever learn, yet pick up the gauntlet anyway?

Because we know that apprenticed truth is the very marrow of all that makes us human. That suffraged truth is ours to keep forever. And that these self-learned truths are what truly sanctify us, make us whole, make us real. Because we know that human-ness and sanctification are one and the same.

Because we know that to keep truth you need to earn it. You need to fight for it, sometimes even die for it. Because borrowed truth just doesn’t stick: Won’t stick to you. Or inside of you. Or up for you.

But some people try to do just that, over and over again. Unable to find the path, unwilling to pay the price, looking for an easier, softer way — and missing the irony of their very own actions — they cling to their cookbooks, their bibles, their leaflets, their doctrines, their scrolls, their index cards, their cheat sheets.

Forsaking the wisdom of their very own hearts, ignoring the axiom No Guts, No Glory, they take the easy way out (instead of the harder way inside), looking to some Petrarchan authority to tell them what to think, what to believe, how to act. And they know they are right: Because they’ve got the rules now. They’ve got the rules, and by golly the rest of of us better start living by them or else.

And so they set about the business of minding everybody else’s business. What else can you do when you’ve finally got the rules? What else can you do when you know better than everybody else? What else can you do when you’ve been born again in the stagnant waters of vainglorious superiority, carved anew from the petrified rock of pseudo-enlightenment?

And the dirty little rat bastids just won’t leave our books alone. Forgetting that the very reason they know they are right and we are wrong is because they read it somewhere and that makes it true. Imagining some knighted prerogative to “go forth and cleanse,” they slither into our libraries unannounced (but always invited) to bite the hand that originally fed them.

I’m just kind of sick of it. Books of all types, sizes, shapes and subject matter have repeatedly disappeared from the hallowed shelves on this most-American of institutions time and again. Thanks to the blessed and all-knowing storm troopers, we have to repeatedly fight for the right to read.

So let me ask you this: If someone takes a book away from me, do I get to take one away from them? Do I get to decide for them, like they want to do for me, what they shall read? Because I am the moral conscience for the world? Because I know better than you and them and him and her? And do we do this—tit for tat—until there are no books left? None to be found anywhere, every last shelf picked clean?

Just something to think about as Banned Books Week draws to a close. And I do hope you think about it. Think about it all year round. Think about a world stunted by intellectual pygmies who want to steal every idea ever found in a book, because they’ve never had an original one of their own, and it scares the hell out of them.

Think about a world without music, without poetry and even without prayer, because original thought is original sin…and we can’t have that, now, can we?

Think of a world, of all the worlds, contained inside the covers of each and every single book.

Think about all of this when…

…you visit the library, walk into a bookstore, join a book club, attend a book fair and your heart thrills at the banquet of possibilities.

…you catch the musty scent of aged paper and pulp when entering your grandfather’s den and remember his smile, the way he held you on his lap and read to you.

…you read a Shakespearian sonnet to the woman you love and see the look of love in her eyes.

…you grieve the ending of the best book ever as a last chapter looms ahead.

…you run across an old school book and remember how autumn always smelled so new, so full of promise, back then.


About Index Librorum Prohibitorum.:  Well, shame on me!  I grew up a Catholic gal and had never heard of this.  And wouldn’t have, unless a thoughtful commenter on my last post brought it up.  (Thank you, very much and I hope you visit often.)  Of course, I googled it and there it was all over the place.  I’ll just send you to the Wikipedia page, where you can read all about it. 

And I just had to use it as a title, ‘cuz it makes look smarter than I am.  *wink*

One more thing:  "Google" is officially a verb now (and has been for a while), which makes "googled" a real word ( a past tense verb, to be specific).  So why doesn’t my spell checker recognize it?  argghhhh. 

3 Responses to “Index Librorum Prohibitorum”

  1. Mr. Smith Says:

    “Think about a world stunted by intellectual pygmies who want to steal every idea ever found in a book, because they’ve never had an original one of their own, and it scares the hell out of them.”

    And this is why I love you. Absolute genius.

  2. PQS Says:

    “Among the notable writers on the list were Jean Buridan and Laurence Sterne, as well as the Dutch sexologist Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde, author of the sex manual The Perfect Marriage.

    Others included:

    Joseph Addison
    Francis Bacon
    Simone de Beauvoir
    Cesare Beccaria
    Jeremy Bentham
    Henri Bergson
    George Berkeley
    Thomas Browne
    Giordano Bruno
    John Calvin
    Auguste Comte
    Nicolaus Copernicus
    Jean le Rond d’Alembert
    Erasmus Darwin
    Daniel Defoe
    Alexandre Dumas, père
    Alexandre Dumas, fils
    Desiderius Erasmus
    Johannes Scotus Eriugena
    Frederick II of Prussia
    Galileo Galilei
    Edward Gibbon
    Vincenzo Gioberti
    Graham Greene
    Heinrich Heine
    Thomas Hobbes
    David Hume
    Cornelius Jansen
    Adam F. Kollár
    Nikos Kazantzakis
    Johannes Kepler
    Hughes Felicité Robert de Lamennais
    John Locke
    Martin Luther
    Niccolò Machiavelli
    Nicolas Malebranche
    Jules Michelet
    John Stuart Mill
    John Milton
    Ernest Renan
    George Sand
    Jonathan Swift
    Miguel de Unamuno
    Maria Valtorta
    Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde
    Gerard Walschap
    Huldrych Zwingli”

  3. science nerd Says:

    The internet is marvelous and dark too, but libraries are sacred. To be among the physical manifestation of centuries of collective wisdom, wit, creativity, tenacity, research, insight, etc is humbling and an honor.

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