A Tale of Two Audiences
At the Cinema
Over the holidays, I went to the movies to see Up in the Air with George Clooney. After the “turn off your cell phones” trailer ended, a man in front of me tapped a woman in front of him to ask her to put her cell phone away. She responded by calling him names, and the interaction escalated until they were escorted from the theatre by the manager.
As the film unfolded with its strong theme of disaffection and alienation in modern society, the irony of the cell phone incident, and its lack of civility grew stronger.
Over the next few days, I found it hard to shake this jarring experience, and began to wonder where civilization is headed. In my mind, I began to contrast the Cineplex experience with some of the great experiences I’ve had at free programs in my local library.
An Amazing Library Program
For instance, last November, the Belmont Library invited the Pulitzer-prize-winning writer Michael Chabon to read from his latest book Manhood for Amateurs: The Pleasures and Regrets of a Husband, Father, and Son. The event was made possible by collaboration between M is for Mystery Bookstore and the Belmont Library and was moderated by San Francisco Chronicle book editor John McMurtrie.
The evening was memorable for several reasons. McMurtrie is a gracious and good-humored moderator. Chabon is a dazzling speaker who seems to have an unfettered connection to his memories and imagination–even in front of 300 people–giving his presentation a stream-of-consciousness quality, almost the verbal equivalent of jazz improvisation. And somewhere in this mix, the most generous heart swells. Chabon shared much of his own life and much warm-hearted laughter was shared between audience and author throughout the evening.
Now let me describe the audience–a mixture of ages from teens through seniors, all prepared to share community space in order to interact with this celebrated author. Teenagers voluntarily sat in the outdoor amphitheatre so that seniors could sit in the warmer community room. Inside the community room, every inch of space was taken, including the standing room on either side of the aisles. And, not an ill word from anyone. At the end of the evening, people lined up in an orderly fashion to get their books signed and thanked the book sellers and librarians for hosting such a nice event.
Warmth of Community
I don’t want to malign Cineplexes. There could have been many reasons for the discord described in the beginning of this article, including holiday stress. But I do want to point out that your local library may be one of the best places to find free, high-quality entertainment and great community spirit. If you’re a single and online dating hasn’t worked for you, come to a library event. You’d be surprised at the number of attractive, intelligent people you’ll meet.
Kathleen B. is totally passionate about the idea of life-long education with all the promise it brings to help us to evolve into better beings. The public library embodies this ideal in an arena that invites engagement from all ages, ethnicities, and social classes. She will be blogging about some of the life-changing experiences she has had in the library.