December 6, 2017
If you travel to the ruins of ancient Ephesus, once a thriving shipping and manufacturing metropolis of hundreds of thousands on the west coast of what is modern Turkey, you will walk streets paved with stone marveling at the immense public works accomplished under the Asian sun. (This part of the world of antiquity was known as Asia.) How, for example, were they able to precision cut 20-meter high marble or granite columns, fluted (rounded grooves) from bottom to top and precisely spaced at one half inch. It’s not possible! The ancients didn’t have electricity, laser levels, or other modern devices to measure and cut and do their work. They didn’t have the technology to do it. Yet they did it and the evidence remains to tantalize us who think we are so much more advanced. Maybe we are not such a lot smarter or more capable. (Check out the Antikythera mechanism.)
And then smile at the simplicity of their culture that allowed ten public relief stations in a row at the side of the main street – with a channel of water (a sewer) flowing beneath to dispose of the refuse. Ingenious! But no enclosures. You’re free to sit and chat with passers by under the warm Asian sun – or to josh with neighbours to right or left and then go off to shop or library just down the street.
But it’s the library. Apparently the ancients were readers. Apparently they valued their histories, their sciences, and their popular literature. (The library of Celsus in Ephesus is only one among others – Alexandria and Byblos, for example.) After 2000 years, the library of Celsus is still a magnificent, awe-inspiring edifice supported by two levels of massive stone columns. No expense was spared in its construction and in the stocking of its shelves. I can just imagine the librarian welcoming the eager searchers for wisdom as they entered its cool precincts.
And then move on down the street to the theatre, a 25-thousand-seat theatre, and marvel that it still stands and still entertains.
Now go back to the library, the library that was built to contain the wisdom of the ages, to promote learning, to encourage the exploration of intellectual horizons, to stimulate the youth with the excitement of discovery and creativity.
A community without a library is a community without a soul. Chetwynd has a very active library. You knew that, didn’t you? Maybe you are a patron or maybe you take your children there to hook them on books. Be careful. It could happen that your kids will come to eschew the electronic devices in favour of the book, the beautiful book.
I remember with nostalgic fondness the library in Victoria where my brother and I got our books when we were still stretching our minds. Every six weeks we’d get a package of four or seven books in the mail, postage paid, which we would devour and return with an order for another package of books, postage paid. Oh the wonder of a book to a curious mind! Oh the wisdom of those who will provide a book to a developing mind!
Chetwynd’s library needs some serious attention if we are going to continue to experience its benefits. For the last year the Library Board, the Regional District, and the District of Chetwynd have been exploring the options with the users in Chetwynd and the surrounding Regional District. The exploration continues but the solutions are becoming more sharply defined. You can expect that in the coming months you will be asked to express your opinion on the options.
No, I don’t think a Library of Celsus will materialize here, but a facility that stimulates and supports lasting learning must certainly continue to be in our future.
Oh, by the way, since we have been contemplating ancient mysteries, here’s a 3000-year-old wisdom: “and further, my son, be admonished by these. Of the making of many books there is no end” (Ecclesiastes). We just need to ensure that we have a suitable place to encourage their use.
Merlin Nichols, Mayor