11 November 2012

Mindful Moment No. 1.

 We often chart life in terms of its large phases or landmarks, but just as single bricks make up the building I live in, single moments make the life I'm living through.

It has always been a conundrum to me why some students here describe our library as a pit of despair.  (The larger floor is in the basement.)  While I understand that desperate late-night sessions drafting papers on issues in theology can taint a space with misery, I have always found myself guarded by my abiding love of libraries in general.  Unlike my unfortunate fellow students, I associate libraries with light and life, not with drudgery and distress.

Part of the magic of the C. Library, to use its initial, is its media room.  I suppose when you see those words, dear reader, you think of a space full of computers, possibly with a mediocre CD and DVD collection stockpiled against one wall.  Not so this media room.  The first layer is CDs and DVDs, yes, but probe a little further and you'll find - gasp - cassette tapes and VHS tapes.  The adjoining room even has equipment to play them.  But venture all the way to the back wall, past the music scores and the study recordings, and you'll find a true treasure: a whole row's worth of vinyl records.

I had discovered this very early on - when I visited the school.  But I had been keeping it tucked away in the back of my mind, in a sort of vault of Special Things to Treat Myself With.  The other day, with the stress of a midnight deadline before me, I decided to bring the knowledge out of the vault.  I wound my way toward the media room with a strange lightheartedness, despite my deadline, and established myself by a venerable stack of old Denon stereo equipment with a turntable perched on top.  I scurried to the records and surveyed the shelves with something of the sense of a child at the Thanksgiving table.  Finally I pulled out a record that said OCKEGHEM on the spine.  Good old early music composer, Ockeghem, about whom I knew nothing.  Perfect place to start.

It took me several minutes to figure out the turntable.  Remarkably, I had used one before, since my parents used to have one hanging around the house, but it had been years since I'd learned to use it.  I turned on all the power, channeled the sound to the right pair of headphones, and slipped the record out of its sleeve.  It hung from my hand, glossy black and refreshingly tangible, perhaps untouched for years until this moment.  I placed it carefully onto the turntable, used the Lift button to raise the needle, started it spinning, and hit the Lift button again to drop the needle.

I watched it descend, lightly hit the grooves in the vinyl, and begin its labyrinthine journey.  A moment's silence - and then a voice, clarion and supple, bloomed into my headphones out of the past, and my heart filled with awe.

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