Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about paradoxes. I do love a paradox. Accept myself, and also expect more from myself. The days are long, but the years are short. To keep going, sometimes we must allow ourselves to stop.
When I encounter a paradox, it can stick with me for a long time. I read something paradoxical in an article in the Wall Street Journal almost twenty years ago, and I think about it often.
In the article “It’s a Living,” journalist Perri Capell write about the ghost town of Silver City, Idaho. In it, she quotes Ernest Lombard, former chairman of the Idaho State Board of Parks, saying: “There is a big problem with vandalism in Idaho ghost towns. People say, ‘I’d better take this home so someone else doesn’t steal it.'”
A person commits vandalism in the belief that they’re preventing others from committing vandalism.
I absolutely identify with this feeling!
Recently, I went to my college reunion, and during the weekend, two of my former roommates and I went back to the places we’d spent the most time. At Yale, where I went, students are randomly assigned to one of fourteen “residential colleges,” and each college is a collection of dorm rooms, dining hall, library, and other useful spaces. Your college is your home space within the larger university.
My roommates and I wandered around our college, Silliman, just to look around, and this visit which made me reflect on my visits to its little library.
As an undergraduate, I didn’t spend much time in this satellite library; I spent a lot of time in the library, but I almost always went to the giant central libraries of Sterling or CCL.
But whenever I did go to the Silliman library, I had a very strong urge to take some of the books. The library’s shelves held many old, interesting volumes that were just sitting out, unsupervised, and some looked valuable. I appreciated the trust that the institution showed in its students, but I also worried about the collection.
I’d think to myself, “Anyone could just come along and steal these books! I should take them, to keep them safe.” I never did, but I had that thought every time I studied there.
I’d better take this home, so someone else doesn’t steal it.