Salome Starfire

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Of Mice and books

I am here early, only with the librarians and the security guards. The lights are not even on in the room I am sitting in. This is the most glorious time to be at the library. My sneeze echoes through the chamber, a mouse scurries. An elegant mouse, dressed in a red brocade waist-coat, a black velvet cap and a pile of papers under one arm. She looks up at me and her eyes widen as though this kind of thing never happens. Tendrils of electricity pass between us, and both sense the pace of each other’s heart. Her heart flutters like a sparrow caught in a spider web, mine flutters as if I’ve awoken in a dream. She stands so very still and I wonder if she thinks I am a big black cat, which is a very reasonable and observant estimation. I try to calm my pulse and I know I should look down to show I am not hostile, but I don’t want to her to disappear.

The lights have just turned on and slowly they warm up in the library. I see no ghosts. I feel no ghosts here. The only ghosts in this place are the ones people bring in, though I suspect level 4 and 5 to be the most haunted if there were to be such things. There are books there written from the 15th century, even older–Copernicus,  Tibetan scripts and a Koran from the 16th Century. The Koran is within a beautiful leather satchel, and I can see the desert winds wearing away at the animal hide and dye, the faded tassels, a breath-taking illuminated manuscript from Florence,  and Galileo’s ‘A dialogue concerning the World’s Two chief systems’ ( refer to http://www.theaustralian.com.au/arts/review/after-galileo/story-fn9n8gph-1226482533504# ) When I go up to Level 4 I feel I am in the presence of some of the most wonderful dangerous ideas and some courageous adventurers questing after knowledge, truth, and discoveries.  Galileo was convicted of Heresy and this book was placed by the church on the ‘Index of Forbidden Books’. The book takes the form of a discussion by people on the motion of the earth and building on the theory of Copernicus Galileo’s book is a dialectical exploration of rebuttals, observations and arguments for the motion of the earth around the sun based on rigorous scientific exploration, curiousity, and detailed observations.  Galileo defied the Church’s insistence that the Earth was the centre of the heavenly spheres, and by curiousity, observations of tides,  the motion of the Earth in relation to the sun etc, this hounded and exiled scientist, later banned from writing any more books, subverted the Earth-centred universe paradigm of the Christian Empire. This monotheistic paradigm ruled and regulated what people could write, and how they could conceptualise their place in the world, thus reinforcing the power and dominance of the church. Galileo was a true revolutionary. Okay, so he had a patron who supported him financially, but still, I think we live in a world where we think power comes from having authority over others, lauding title, position, money, status. But what about an idea that rocks the foundation of those dominant institutions?

Maybe I don’t feel so ‘powerful’ observing a system of governance that gracelessly attempts to give us a selection of ‘choices’, or a semblance of ‘democracy’. Maybe I don’t feel so powerful walking down the street in the rich house of dire areas of Melbourne with 5 bucks in my purse, but here is it is…. I may join in from time to time the bemoaning of undertaking a degree in literature and philosophy and continuing with it…but I love ideas, dangerous ideas, and I never once thought about getting a proper job. What the hell is that?  I considered myself an adventuress always on the search for knowledge, for the sharing of knowledge and the creation of new knowledge.  My mum has not been comfortable with this and I have beaten myself up trying to reconcile my idealistic notions of knowledge, creativity and sharing with the reality that maybe the climate is not a climate readily embracing new ideas, intellectuals, and creatives…other than side entertainment on the weekend, or somehow incorporated into a professional development program of a corporate job. #sigh#

But I’ve got this fire in me, a mad universe of collapsing stars and wild visions that I’ve tried to shake, to get rid of, to ignore…but it never works!!!!!  I never thought Galileo’s work would give me such butterflies, would make me feel so deeply for the pursuit of knowledge, creativity and curiousity… to want to share and explore it with others.

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