This has been the Winter of Hygge here at the library, where we’ve been encouraging the community to follow Denmark’s example and slow down to enjoy simple, cozy activities and togetherness. We’ve been knitting, writing memoirs, singing and playing guitar in a circle and enjoying hearty soups. We even had a cozy mystery featuring library staff performing a whodunit. In short, we have been finding comfort.
Personally, I find comfort in music and on days like this one — I’m writing this at noon on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, while in DC a man has his right hand in the air — I turn to the works of the Old Masters, particularly to Beethoven and Brahms, who took the tumult of their lives and times and turned it into art that will forever resonate with human beings. I was lucky today to have a wide choice: a search of the library’s physical collection resulted in 103 recordings of Beethoven and 78 of Brahms; with our Hoopla streaming service, the numbers go up to 1,250 and 670, respectively. (I chose Kleiber’s Vienna recording of Beethoven 7 and Karajan for Brahms 2 & 3 while someone held their right hand in the air in D.C.)
That I found comfort in the majesty of this music is in keeping with hygge, I suppose. This comfort was needed because 24 hours earlier, the people who work for the guy with his right hand in the air said he would eliminate the NEA and the NEH. A challenge grant from the latter funds many library programs, including one earlier in the week that featured Albert Raboteau, professor emeritus at Princeton University, in a talk titled “American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social and Political Justice.” (People enjoyed the talk so much that Mr. Raboteau will be leading a book discussion group on Wednesday.)
While our NEH money is secure and well-invested, this is bad news for other libraries trying to follow our example. And how will the next generation discover the joys of Beethoven and Brahms or Charles Mingus and Ella Fitzgerald or Buddy Holly and Patti Smith? Something to ponder. For now, I think I’ll listen to Beethoven 9.