Friday, June 17, 2005

The Information highways

The thing that fascinates me about the Internet is the way you can get an answer to almost any question you might have.  Twenty years ago, you'd have to go to the library and hope to find a book on whatever subject about which you wanted to learn.  Today, the answers are at our fingertips.  Of course, you can easily pick up wrong information, but you soon learn to double-check the sources.

When I was a child, the only information highway we had was the encyclopedia.  Oh, and how I longed to have a set of World Book Encyclopedias!  But we were poor, and it was an impossible dream.  At least my sister had a set at her house, for my nephew; when I was there, I perused them constantly.  And there were several different sets in the school library.  I spent a lot of study-hall time looking up various subjects.

I remember singing along with Jiminy Cricket, on the Micky Mouse Club:  "It's the ENCYCLOPEDIA... E-N-C-Y-C-L-O-P-E-D-I-A!!!!"

When I was ten, my mom sent me for a week-long stay at a preacher friend's house in Chillicothe, Missouri... Brother Lemons (Mother had a lot of preacher-friends).  Joe and Lois had four precocious children, all younger than me.  The reason I was there for that week was that they were having Bible school at the Church of Christ where Joe preached; and I'd boost the attendence.  Also, my mother hoped I'd learn enough to be convicted of my sins and walk the aisle at Church, and be saved.  (I didn't walk the aisle until much later, but that's another entry.)

The Lemons family had no television, but that wasn't a big deal.  We didn't have one at home, either.  What they DID have was a set of "The Book of Knowledge".  This was more than an encyclopedia; it introduced me to poetry!  I pretty much kept my nose in those books for that whole week.  I was hooked.

When I was thirteen (1957), I accompanied Mother and Daddy to a weekly auction, and saw a set of "The Book Of Knowledge", published in the 40's.  When it came time for it to be auctioned off, nobody would bid on it.  I begged and pleaded, and we ended up taking that box of books home with us, for 50 cents.

I was ecstatic!  Those volumes introduced me to most of the poets who are still my favorites today:  Edgar Allen Poe, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Frost, Sarah Teasdale, the Brownings, John Masefield, Emily Dickinson, and scores of others.

How can you top this one by Emily Dickinson?

The Soul selects her own Society -
Then - shuts the Door -
To her divine Majority -
Present no more -

Unmoved - she notes the Chariots - pausing
At her low Gate -
Unmoved - an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat -

I've known her - from an ample nation -
Choose One -
Then - close the Valves of her attention -
Like Stone -

or this...

Jenny Kissed Me, by Leigh Hunt

Jenny kissed me when we met,
Jumping from the chair she sat in.
Time, you thief! who love to get
Sweets into your list, put that in.
Say I'm weary, say I'm sad;
Say that health and wealth have missed me;
Say I'm growing old, but add-
Jenny kissed me!

I'm so thankful for that fifty-cent box of books.  How greatly it has enriched my life! 




ksquester said...

Now THAT was a  bargain. I agree, the information highway is great now. Whenever Jim and I get into a deep conversation and I think I am right, I just say, " Well, I'm going to ask Jeeves!"    Anne

ryanagi said...

OMG I loved The Book of Knowledge! My grandmother (a retired teacher) had a set in her den. The main set was from the late 40s, early 50s but she also had a subscription to their annual update volume, so she had one for every year going up until I think 1972. My brother and I both wanted those books when she passed away, but my evil Aunt said they were trash and insisted they be thrown out.

marainey1 said...

I love the instant info on the net - I still have the old encyclopedia set and my kids think I should throw it out.  Maybe -- one of these days, but not yet.

'On Ya'  - ma

astaryth said...

Awwww.... nothing better than a book, unless it's an encyclopedia! When I was about 9 or 10 my stepfather came home with a box of books. They were a set of encyclopedias (I don't remember which on now) that were several years old that someone sold him cheap. He brought them home that evening, and I was lost in them! They even had picture plates (as they called them) in several books with pictures. Even though they were "out of date" I LOVED those books. I would pick up a volume on a rainy day at random, and just open it and read. By todays standards (Oh heck, by standards then) they were not very 'entertaining', but they kept me enthralled.

csandhollow said...

I can remember many long hours happiy reading our set of The Children's Book of Knowledge.

wpepsiaok said...