Wednesday Aug 22 2012
Without love, love ... where would you be now?
By: Elaine Jo Giamona
Life from Your Window column
The tune “Without love, love (where would you be now)” was rolling around in my head Friday morning. Truly, my intention the day before was to write an exposing article on the state of our Lincoln libraries. In my research, I read about the brutal murder of Hypatia, the last (and only) female librarian at The Great Library of Alexandria in Egypt, the largest library of the ancient world. (My 86-year-young mother was born in Egypt and spent her honeymoon in Alexandria.) Hypatia was a teacher, philosopher, mathematician and astronomer who fell victim to the Christian-Jewish-Roman political turmoil of the time. This was just before the fall of the Roman Empire and the start of 500 years of the Dark Ages (417A.D.). I also read about Andrew Carnegie (Nov. 25, 1835-Aug. 11, 1919) the Scottish-born American industrialist and philanthropist who came to America when he was 12. (My father was of Scotch-Irish descent.) Carnegie’s money built New York City’s Carnegie Hall and our own Carnegie Library of Lincoln in 1909, which was closed in 2011, “after 102 years” as the sign on the door says, due to budget cuts. The library research has been an exciting journey that has suddenly come to a full stop. It will have to wait because a Doobie Brothers song got in the way. As I said, Friday morning, I couldn’t get the tune out of my head. It was a leftover from my tripping out on the dance floor last Thursday night at Sterling Cafe. In answer to the question, “Without love, where would you be now?” I jokingly yelled out, “I’d be rich!” and it got a few laughs. Recalling that scene, I am once again reminded that I am truly rich. We call some people rich because they have amassed unbelievable amounts of money. Carnegie’s life is truly a “rags to riches” story, but as one wise librarian said to me, “Remember, he made his money off the backs of people working and dying building railroads and in steel mills.” Carnegie was exceptional. At age 33, he wrote that “amassing of wealth is one of the worst species of idolatry! No idol is more debasing than the worship of money!” At age 66, he sold his shares in the Carnegie Steel Company in 1901 for $225.6 million (presently, $6.3 billion). Between 1886 and 1919, he built some 1,900 American free public libraries, located in 47 states and another 800 in Canada, Britain, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies and Fiji. Maybe he was trying to justify what he had done to get that money by giving it away. Perhaps he was quieting his conscience? Carnegie argued that the life of a wealthy industrialist should consist of two parts. The first part was to gather and accumulate wealth. The second part was to distribute this wealth to benevolent causes. He wrote that philanthropy was key to making a life worthwhile. Carnegie established large pension funds in 1901 for his former employees and for American college professors. One critical requirement was that church-related schools had to sever their religious connections to get his money. Toward the end of his life, Carnegie gave away nearly 90 percent of his fortune Carnegie was one of the richest men in history, along with J. D. Rockefeller, the Italian Giovanni De Medici in the 1500s and Crassus of Rome, who had a personal net worth equal to the treasury of Rome 53 years B.C. Crassus was beheaded and molten gold was poured into his mouth to quench his insatiable greed. Yikes! Makes you wonder how rich he really was. You won’t see the word “rich” too often in advertising today. Grocery products are advertised as free, new, improved or original. And now natural, organic and green are the buzz words. It’s become a no-no for foods to be rich; only people and coffee are supposed to be rich. Some people are rich with friends or family; some are rich with good health. I wondered what the word “rich” actually meant. Turns out it has more than a dozen meanings. No wonder English is the most difficult language to learn! It can mean “hard to believe because it’s ridiculous,” fertile, with fatty ingredients or my favorite, “with too much fuel in the mixture.” It also means “with a good supply of something.” Having a good supply of friends and family who love me and the bonus of good health, I believe that makes me rich in the best of all ways. The following is dedicated to a dear friend who has enriched my life: “Ever since I was a child, I have dreamed that the desert would bring me a wonderful present. Now, my present has arrived and it’s you.” (from The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, a book you can find in your free public library, thanks to Carnegie. Elaine Jo Giamona is creator and administrator of the Facebook group, Lincoln Nonprofit Coalition. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org or lincolnnewsmessenger.com.