Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sure. Why not. A few more words on impermanence

It has been all to long since impermanence has meandered around in my brain or made an appearance in this blog.

Today, a colleague in preservation and impermanence @blefurgy retweeted an Alan Lightman quote, which was excerpted from an Utne article  "Change is the Only Constant" which was excerpted from Tin House #51 article "THE TEMPORARY UNIVERSE • The novelist yearns for the eternal; the physicist knows better."  (I’ve made it as far down as into the Utne article and hope to get my hands on the longer Tin House piece.)

I don’t know that I have anything new to say to the topic of impermanence that I haven’t already said again, and again, and again. Suffice it to say that I think coming to grips with impermanence could reshape – in a very positive way – how we approach preservation.

When I read the initial quote I tweeted

@blefurgy replied that he’d do the same. So, that’s $200 on the table for one willing library.

Sadly, I don’t really expect any forward thinking (or backward thinking, or inward thinking) library to incorporate that quote, or the sentiments behind it into their preservation policy. But, I think the truest, and most honest preservation policy would begin with the line “In the end, none of this will last.”

I think Lightman’s best response to the potentially debilitating acknowledgement of impermanence is this line near the end of the Utne article  
“Could there be a preciousness and value to existence 
stemming from the very fact of its temporary duration?” 
Are our collections not that much more special because their time on this earth is not permanent?


  1. The Library of Daniel Cull officially adopts the quote as the totality of their preservation policy.


  2. Congratulations to the Library of Daniel Cull for having such a forward thinking preservation policy. I have chosen to learn from this library's appreciation of impermanence and apply it to my own twitter-based promises of cash prizes - here today, gone tomorrow. Enjoy!