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’Cat in the Stacks: The GIFt of Cats

CAT-STAX4I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.


 

The final weeks of the semester have arrived. In the next 14 days or so classes will end, finals will be taken, and term projects will be completed. This ’Cat in the Stacks is here to tell you though, everything’s going to be alright:

Just follow these simple steps to success.

Work Hard

The end of the semester necessitates hard work for success. You will not escape this basic fact, so buckle down and push yourself a little bit. Don’t push yourself too far, though, and only you will know for yourself what that means.

Get Out/Get Some Exercise

Scientifically speaking, exercise helps brain function. While we know this fact to be true, many of us (including me) remain committed to our sedentary lifestyle. For those of you who are like me, just get outside and go for a walk or try one of those classes where I’m not really sure what’s going on, like with these cats:

Kick Your Feet Up When It’s Over

There’s a phrase in English that goes “that’s a life you can hang your hat on.” It speaks to a full life well lived, one you can proudly hang your hat at the end of. This week is kind of like that. Don’t finish your week and think “Well that’s behind me. Now what’s next?” Take the time to admire your own accomplishments. Kick your feet up and reflect for a while.

These are three very basic steps toward optimal mental health. You will have some ups, and you will have some downs in the coming days. If we keep these steps in mind, however, you and I will both make it through this unscathed.

(Also, revisit these cat GIFs when you can – courtesy of GIPHY – especially that first one, for a some inspiration courtesy of some cute felines, who are very pure, according to Hunter.)


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 


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’Cat in the Stacks: Celebrating Earth Week at ’Nova

CAT-STAX4I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.


Yesterday marked the beginning of a weeklong celebration of Earth Day organized around Villanova’s campus (photo of events below). An increasingly important celebration as we tackle the challenges of the 21st century, Earth Day can be commemorated through a number of activities.

If you’re a leisurely stroller, it sounds as though the Tree Tour might be for you. If you think the answer to environment-related issues lies in academics and research, I’d encourage you to attend Dominic Frongillo’s Thursday keynote. It even sounds like by making posters, attending the March for Service and participating in the Earth Day of Service you could display your activist side.

Take a look at all the activities available for you to celebrate Earth Week!

Take a look at all the activities available for you to celebrate Earth Week!

Regardless of how you decide to mark Earth Day this year, I recommend that you make sure to celebrate all of your various environments here at Villanova. The optimists among the Falvey staff like to believe that you Wildcats spend the majority of your time in three particular environments: the dorm, the classroom and, of course, the library.

The classroom might be a tough environment for a student to navigate, let alone take care of or control. But, speaking of 21st-century issues, perhaps this can best be accomplished by showing mutual understanding and respect to fellow students. The dorm room, depending on one’s roommates might be similarly difficult to control, but we’ve all heard the term fengshui and know that a relaxed outer environment can promote a stress-free psyche.

We all also know that finals week can get ugly. As we get to those final weeks of the semester, including finals week itself, let’s all make sure we take care of the library as well. Now, the Falvey staff is not against finding the occasional undergraduate strewn out across couches taking a quick nap but let’s all commit to keeping the place clean and ready for the next person to zone in on his/her studies.

The March for Science is on Saturday. Unfortunately, I'm a lazy grad student, but hopefully you'll see my landscaping skills from downtown.

The March for Science is on Saturday. Unfortunately, I’m a lazy grad student (who will actually be spending Saturday writing papers), but hopefully you’ll see my landscaping skills from downtown.

Let’s also remember that this week really is about the environment! While college comes with lots of intriguing environments (numerated above) with personalities of their own, Mother Nature demands our full attention this week regardless of political leanings.

I know I am not alone among the Falvey staff in encouraging you to participate in as many of these activities as you can. After all, a college campus represents the best environment for doing so; you will not find many places in the world willing to dedicate so much time to celebrating a single day as you will with ‘Nova and Earth Day this week.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.


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‘Cat in the Stacks: Library Week or Patron Week?

 

CAT-STAX4I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.


I wrote last week about writer’s block as a metaphor for those aspects of life that prevent us from authoring each day to its fullest creative potential. I encouraged you to “read,” by finding others who inspire you – whether that person is an author, a vlogger, anyone really.

As we celebrate National Library Week, yesterday being National Library Workers Day, I’d like to take a step back and talk about how this “writer’s block” metaphor works from our side of the circulation desk.

Personal disclosure: yesterday was my birthday, and Hunter Houtzer, PATW author, sent me apropos birthday wishes.

Personal disclosure: yesterday was my birthday, and Hunter Houtzer, PATW author, sent me apropos birthday wishes.

Everyday at the Falvey, we librarians and library staff are given the chance to shape students’ work. Whether it’s the undergraduate writing a term paper, or the graduate student preparing to defend a thesis, we’re given the opportunity to help shape the education of others.

In other words, we’re the guest authors in their academic life. (Or, sometimes even, guest authors in students’ careers!) Beyond the research, we try to enhance students’ life stories through events and promotions.

In our case, writer’s block can come in many forms; shortened weeks because of holiday breaks and snow days can sometimes limit us, even though the databases are accessible remotely and the Dugan Polk Family Reading Room is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We'll miss you over Easter break but wish you the safest of travels!

We’ll miss you over Easter break but wish you the safest of travels!

When the semester’s busy schedule gets in our way, though, we find our inspiration in you, the students. The amount of effort, organization and productivity that you put into each and every week of the semester keeps the Falvey staff motivated and raring to help week in and week out.

While the ALA has set aside this week for celebrating libraries, I would like to take the chance to celebrate our patrons. Thank you so much for inspiring us every day, Wildcats! Have a safe and wonderful Easter break, and we look forward to tackling the end of the semester grind together.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 


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‘Cat in the Stacks: Working through Writer’s Block

 

CAT-STAX4I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role.


 

I sit down to write this blog every week and often complain to my co-worker, and PATW author, Hunter (graphic representation below) about the difficulty of coming up with something original. My options are basically limitless: I can incorporate current events, new research, or what’s going on at the Falvey – and there are always exciting new events and promotions going on here.

Hunter celebrating being my co-worker.

Hunter celebrating being my co-worker.

This week, though, during those dog days of the semester, I prefer not to bore you with the over repetitive nature of current events. With your current workload, I’d rather not give you more challenging material to read, and, with everything you have going on, I won’t overload your social calendar with more excellent library events.

I’d like to write today, instead, about a shared emotion between us – writer’s block. I could, of course, take the easy way out and say, “This is a post about writer’s block because I simply have nothing to say this week!” Out of respect, however, I wouldn’t do that to you. Instead, I’d like to frame writer’s block as a metaphor for the feeling we all get around this time of the semester that arises from routine and repetition.

Writer’s block, in my opinion, extends beyond the page. In writing, we rely on the creative part of our brain to generate something new, exciting and engaging. When we write for a weekly column, or blog like this one, that creative part of the brain can get into a rut as you begin to produce similar things each week.

My own self-conceptualization of my writing process.

My own self-conceptualization of my writing process.

Writer’s block extends to the writing of one’s life story too, both as a professional and as a student. Every morning we’re offered the opportunity to write a new story – the creative non-fiction of April 5, 2017, for example. Sometimes though, we get caught up in the myriad responsibilities of day-to-day existence and forget to activate that creative part of the writing process.

On these days, in these instances, we’re feeling a type of writer’s block. We want to write that memorable story or intriguing narrative but have been lulled into a rut by the repetitive nature of our routines and schedules. The advice I’d like to give to remedy this situation is metaphorical and also the type of advice I’d like someone to give me from time to time.

The remedy for writer’s block – both types – is quite simple: read. While reading the books and other resources available at the library might help the actual writing process, e.g. what I’m doing right now, reading serves as a good metaphor for taking the moment to be inspired by those around you.

Even Will D. Cat finds time to read.

Even Will D. Cat finds time to read.

While we also offer opportunities for getting inspired here at the Falvey, such as Jennifer Haigh’s upcoming talk on April 20, finding inspiration can take place over all sorts of media. Whether it’s finding the blogger who inspires you to try new things, or the friend group that keeps you in constant admiration of each other’s accomplishments, these can all be meaningful readings that help you write an excellent life story both in general and through these long semester weeks.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

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‘Cat in the Stacks: Back to the Beginning

CAT-STAX4I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Library’s role.


 

Every good story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. We often get so caught up in the intrigue of the middle and the drama of the ending that we forget the importance of where we started. I would like to use this week’s post to pluck us out of the intrigue and drama of the home stretch of the semester to take us back to the beginning.

Incidentally, this date in history marks an important beginning; on March 29, 1795, Ludwig van Beethoven played his first piano concert, in Vienna. Beethoven is such a familiar name in music to us now that it’s hard to believe he once had to give his first performance – this is like thinking of Shakespeare writing his first play.

What Beethoven's piano could have maybe looked like. (Courtesy of pexels.com)

What Beethoven’s piano could have maybe looked like. (Courtesy of pexels.com)

The truth is that all great guys and girls, whether we think about their beginnings or not, performed their first big concert, wrote their first play, or wrote his first big graduate school blog post. In looking back on their pieces, we remember most clearly the accomplishments of their later careers. In the case of Beethoven, we all know “Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony” and “Für Elise,” composed between 10 and 15 years after that Vienna debut.

By the middle of the semester, we start to look at our own work in the same way. We’ve already learned so much about Gothic literature, or chemical engineering, or Middle Eastern history, that we’ve started to forget that first time we sat down in class. I would argue, however, that we might produce our best work by bringing ourselves back to our beginnings.

I’m asking you now to reflect on the first time you came to your classes this semester, or the first time you came to work this semester – whatever it may be: how you remember the beginning of this semester. Now think of Beethoven sitting down to play his first big Vienna concert.

You and Beethoven both started in the same place – unsure about performing in front of a big audience for him, unsure about professor’s expectations or the semester’s up-and-downs for you. But now, of course, you’ve become more sure of yourself; you’re ready to compose your own “Für Elise” or your own “Fifth Symphony.”

You getting started on that composition process. (Courtesy of Pexel.com)

You getting started on that composition process. (Courtesy of Pexel.com)

Like the career of Beethoven and most good stories, we’ll remember spring semester 2017 for those big moments that came during the middle and end of the semester. We’ll look back on the drama of the middle and the stress of the end. But let’s not forget that beginning.

The beginning contains your expectations and your ambitions. If we can clearly picture where we started, we know the scale against which we should measure the rest of the semester. If we saw Beethoven play that first concert, we might even develop a deeper appreciation for his music.

Whether your first memory of this semester was in the dorm, or in the library, we’d love to hear about it. Share your memories in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter!


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 


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‘Cat in the Stacks: So Spring has Sprung

 

CAT-STAX4I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Library’s role.


It’s the first week of spring, Wildcats! Our men’s basketball watching schedule has perhaps been cut a little short, and, judging by those spots of snow still hanging on, winter has decided to hang around for a while, but this time of year reminds me of a Wallace Stevens quote that always makes me laugh. He wrote, “poor, dear, silly spring, preparing her annual surprise!”

From Stevens' journal and available in our collection.

From Stevens’ journal and available in our collection.

In his journal entry (pictured above) Stevens writes about the clouds and the fields, but since my own undergraduate years, I’ve come to recognize that Stevens’ quote applied to many aspects of spring that he anticipates coming. It seems only at surface level that he talks about the clouds and the coming rain as “poor, dear, silly” spring’s surprise.

So that begs the question: what is spring’s annual surprise? I think it has to do with those three adjectives that Stevens uses to describe the season; it’s at once poor, dear, and silly.

For us college students, the spring does have one poor surprise ­– the semester’s quick descent into finals and term paper due dates. While the weather warms outside and the birds begin chirping again, we find ourselves inside looking longingly out during breaks from studying.

It is, however, dear as well. During the spring, everyone on college campuses begins to feel they are approaching the end of another academic-year-long odyssey. These last few weeks with our college friends before we disperse, these last class sessions with a favorite professor, or even the last few strolls around campus before going home – these are the memories that remain dear to us.

How spring semester can look, when stuck inside. Photo by Lia Leslie.

How spring semester can look, when stuck inside. Photo by Lia Leslie.

I know I got sentimental on you there, but spring is also a time to be silly! While the frigid temperatures kept some of us inside all winter long, the receding clouds and bright sunshine make the perfect mix for a pickup game of ultimate Frisbee. Or maybe the nicer weather makes using that 30-minute break all the more attractive for a walk down to Campus Corner, instead of a quick microwavable meal.

If you feel like the stereotypical, poor college student, caught up in the blur of spring semester’s final weeks, Falvey has plenty of resources to ease your suffering. Whether you need articles or books, resources from another library or help finding a database, the staff here at the library looks forward to making spring’s surprise not so “poor.”

If this is your sentimental time of year, Falvey Memorial Library has great spaces for you to spend those last school weeks with your friends – the first floor lounge and the Dugan Polk Family Reading Room, to name my favorite. And, if you’re feeling silly this spring, I’ve heard that a pet-related stress buster is in the works for Friday, May 5.

Dugan Polk Family Reading Room

I just can’t get enough of this view!

I know, I know, “C’mon, William, you’re really stretching the limits of Stevens’ words.” I might be guilty as charged! But anytime Stevens took a look at nature, I think we can safely assume that he was talking about something deeper – maybe something spiritual, maybe something like college life, maybe the nothing that is not there.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 

 

 


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‘Cat in the Stacks: So Spring Has Sprung

CAT-STAX4

I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your new ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey’s role.


 

It’s the first week of spring, Wildcats! Our men’s basketball-watching schedule has perhaps been cut a little short, and, judging by those spots of snow still hanging on, winter has decided to hang around for a bit, but this time of year reminds me of a Wallace Stevens quote that always makes me laugh. He wrote, “poor, dear, silly spring, preparing her annual surprise!”

From Stevens' journal and available in our collection.

From Stevens’ journal and available in our collection.

In his journal entry (pictured above) Stevens writes about the clouds and the fields, but since my own undergraduate years, I’ve come to recognize that Stevens’ quote applied to many aspects of spring that he anticipates coming. It seems only at surface level that he talks about the clouds and the coming rain as “poor, dear, silly” spring’s surprise.

So that begs the question: what is spring’s annual surprise? I think it has to do with those three adjectives that Stevens uses to describe the season; it’s at once poor, dear, and silly.

For us college students, the spring does have one poor surprise ­– the semester’s quick descent into finals and term paper due dates. While the weather warms outside and the birds begin chirping again, we find ourselves inside looking longingly out during breaks from studying.

How spring semester can look, when stuck inside. Photo by Lia Leslie.

How spring semester can look, when stuck inside. Photo by Lia Leslie.

It is, however, dear as well. During the spring, everyone on college campuses begins to feel they are approaching the end of another academic-year-long odyssey. These last few weeks with our college friends before we disperse, these last class sessions with a favorite professor, or even the last few strolls around campus before going home – these are the memories that remain dear to us.

I know I got sentimental on you there, but spring is also a time to be silly! While the frigid temperatures kept some of us inside all winter long, the receding clouds and bright sunshine make the perfect mix for a pickup game of ultimate Frisbee. Or maybe the nicer weather makes using that 30-minute break all the more attractive for using for a walk down to Campus Corner, instead of a quick microwavable meal.

If you feel like the stereotypical, poor college student, caught up in the blur of spring semester’s final weeks, Falvey has plenty of resources to ease your suffering. Whether you need articles or books, resources from another library or help finding a database, the staff here at the library looks forward to making spring’s surprise not so “poor.”

If this is your sentimental time of year, Falvey Memorial Library has great spaces for you to spend those last school weeks with your friends – the first floor lounge and the Dugan Polk Family Reading Room, to name my favorite. And, if you’re feeling silly this spring, I’ve heard that a pet-related stress buster is in the works for Friday, May 5.

Dugan Polk Family Reading Room

I simply can’t get enough of this room.

I know, I know, “C’mon, William, you’re really stretching the limits of Stevens’ words.” I might be guilty as charged! But anytime Stevens took a look at nature, I think we can safely assume that he was talking about something deeper – maybe something spiritual, maybe something like college life, maybe the nothing that is not there.


Website photo 2 Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 


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‘Cat in the Stacks: Neither Stellar Nor Easter

CAT-STAX4

I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Library’s role.


You might notice that ‘Cat in the Stacks is coming to you slightly later than usual on this frigid and frozen Wednesday. While this ‘Cat sat inside watching the Nor’easter Stella drop inches and inches of precipitation, I also took the time to contemplate the landscape and scenes of community offered behind the façade of wet, heavy snow.

I first noticed that the whitewashed landscape offered me the chance to write new images onto the usually familiar sights. Parking spots became miniature mountains as snowplows worked away. It reminded me of writing this blog each week, turning the white screen of Microsoft Word into the story of my imagination.

View from a Falvey window

View from a Falvey window

I turned my attention next to the scenes of community that the storm allowed under turbulent circumstances. One woman dug her car out to rush to work, only to have a snow plow block her car back in. Two gentlemen working on freeing their car took a break to help her dig out once again.

Another guy, trying to free his small sedan, found that the ice was too much for the car to handle. Two other gentlemen and one’s girlfriend pushed the small car from behind to free it from its frozen prison.

These scenes and thoughts from Stella offer comfort in the face of a political world becoming increasingly chaotic and a semester rapidly picking up speed as it descends toward finals and term paper deadlines.

In the political realm, we young adults have been thrown into the descending chaos with little to choose from but two opposing sides. Stella offered a nice reminder, in its powdery covering, that we have the ability to inscribe the world with the meaning we envision. Standing up to the descending chaos seems to be the theme of the year; take note of the “Fearless Girl” statue below, and think about how others stood up to the chaos of the storm.

Photo by Mark Lennihan, courtesy of The Boston Globe.

Photo by Mark Lennihan, courtesy of The Boston Globe.

These last weeks of the semester might seem to wreak a similar havoc to a nor’easter. It’s important to remember that even though half of the semester’s grades might already be posted, the second half remains a blank sheet of paper on which you can write whatever accomplishments you envision.

The team here at the Falvey remains those friends who will help you if you feel snowed in by the pressures of the semester. Whether you need a team of subject librarians to get your project moving, or you need a subject guide to dig you out of that pile of books, we’ve got your back.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 


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‘Cat in the Stacks: Tackling Fake News

CAT-STAX4

I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey Memorial Library’s role


It’s become impossible to scroll one’s Twitter feed, check Facebook or browse a news website without coming across the phrase “fake news.” It’s a highly politicized term with both sides accusing the other of relying on fake news as sources. Usually, I would steer clear of such a conversation here on the Falvey blog, but this phenomenon has become so connected with our mission here at the library that I cannot help but discuss it.

InfoWarsA fake news site that became infamous during the 2016 election for its story about Washington pizza shop scandals.

Fake news goes against our mission at the Library in three primary ways. First, fake news generally has an agenda that promotes the marginalization of a particular group. Second, fake news websites lure Internet browsers in with the promise of a story, only to peddle false information to them and take their information for advertisers. Lastly, and perhaps most succinctly put, fake news sites lie to their visitors.

The agenda behind most fake news sites is political and economic. These sites hope to shock and appall you concerning the beliefs of the opposite party than your own. Their end game is financial profit. The business model is fairly simple; the more people who visit the site, the more advertisers will pay for space.

The ethical problem with this model is that it takes advantage of an already marginalized group – the under-educated. This ethical violation goes against the mission of all libraries. While we understand that the vast majority of our visitors attend Villanova and would not fall under the category of “under-educated,” this predation on a certain group of people is an affront to the mission of all libraries.

Liberty Writers NewsA fake news site known for an aggressive and often violent rhetoric.

Beyond the circulation of books, libraries seek to promote the inclusive and free sharing of knowledge. I would like to take the present post to emphasize and reaffirm the Falvey Memorial Library’s commitment to this mission. Whether your research takes you through the stacks or clicking through our many databases, we offer you a non-judgmental physical or cyber space to become informed about the topics that inspire you.

Moreover, in your browsing, we remain committed to protecting your privacy. While these fake news sites aggregate your data and sell it to advertising agencies, we guarantee a private browsing space free from advertisements. The outside world seems increasingly intent on infringing on your privacy; here at the Falvey, we are committed to protecting it.

Perhaps most egregiously among the ethical breaches of fake news is the fact that they grow on the promulgation of lies to their visitors. Here at Falvey we believe that growth should come on the strength of factual information that promotes genuine interest and advanced literacy. From top to bottom, our staff remains committed to this end, despite current political happenings.

Fake News MemeListen to the world’s most interesting man; listen to him. (Courtesy of imgflip.com)

Typically, I save this blog for philosophical or aesthetic musings about college life and the Villanova experience. Given the immensity of the fake news problem though, I thought it important to be forthcoming with you this week and reinforce our authentic image for our mission and goals as we all adjust to an increasingly turbulent political landscape.


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Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 

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’Cat in the Stacks: Common Ground 

CAT-STAX4

I’m William Repetto, a first-year graduate student at Villanova University. This is the “‘Cat in the Stacks” column. I’m your new ‘cat. I’ll be posting about college life, about learning and growing here at Villanova, and, of course, about the Falvey’s role.


 

As her urge to practice #mindfulnessmonday, Hunter Houtzer attached this quote on her blog post Peek at the Week, “Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, the founder of Engaged Buddhism, wrote these lines. Without some knowledge of the central tenets of Buddhism, it might be easy to reduce these lines to the final two sentences. “Live for today” and “focus on the present.” There’s more to unpack here, though.

King's Merton and Nhat HanhRobert H. King’s Thomas Merton and Thich Nhat Hanh

First and foremost, let’s just start by saying that the tea of the first sentence can easily be replaced by coffee. So, what does it mean to drink your coffee “as if it is the axis on which the earth revolves?” To answer this question, you must know something about Buddhism; Buddhism (especially the school from which Nhat Hanh comes, but also in general) stresses the importance of practice and experience over theoretical reasoning.

Thus, to treat something as if it is the axis on which the Earth revolves is to take the thing itself as the epicenter of your existence in that very moment. The irony here is that the coffee or tea and even drinking could be replaced by any activity. At the core of the experience, then, is treating each individual thing as one’s dharma, or duty, for that particular moment. (One can easily see how this would transfer to the Buddhist practice of mediataion.)

Second, Nhat Hanh encourages us to act “slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future.” Anyone who has rushed toward the future with the cup of coffee or tea in hand knows how damaging that can be for the tastebuds, but I don’t think Nhat Hanh is talking about burning your tongue here. Rather, these three guidelines for drinking tea (read: coffee) provide another blueprint for how we ought to do all activities in our life.

Coffee and FlowersCoffee and Flowers (Credit Hunter Houtzer)

This is not to say, however, that Nhat Hanh randomly selected drinking tea among all the activities he could have said. In fact, some Buddhists practice meditation while eating, which involves the contemplation of textures and feelings associated with foods. (I guess we could also say that some Buddhists practice meditation in all aspects of their lives – some yoga experts speak in similar terms as well.) Aside from the breath though, eating and drinking represent the two other major ways that we take substances into our very core, so we can see why they would have a privileged position to Nhat Hanh.

This leads us to our last two sentences: “Live the actual moment. Only this moment is life.” While we might be tempted to boil down Nhat Hanh’s powerful words to just these two lines, I think it’s a better reading to see these last two sentences as the conclusion of the earlier experience. That this moment, the one we take slowly, evenly, and without rush, is life for Nhat Hanh indicates the types of lives we should all be living: ones wherein the present moment is always and dynamically treated as the very center of human experience.

Because Buddhism is about practice and experience over theorizing, I’d be wrong to leave you with an abstract thought about what Nhat Hanh might mean. I’ll give you a method of practicing: the next time you walk into the Falvey take your steps evenly and slowly without rushing to the important work that you know you must do. Enter our space slowly and reverently as if we’re the very axis on which the Earth turns. When you return to your work with the same attitude, you might find yourself refreshed, with a new perspective.

IMG_3285A new perspective – like Hunter when she started wearing glasses!

I’d like to thank Hunter for digging up such a powerful quote for her PATW post. I’d also like to thank some of the great professors I’ve had over the years – Julie Regan and Charles Desnoyers – who taught me the history and tenets of Buddhism that have been instrumental in my own life far beyond the explication in this blog post.


Website photo 2 Article by William Repetto, a graduate assistant on the Communications and Marketing Team at the Falvey Memorial Library. He is currently pursuing an MA in English at Villanova University.

 

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Last Modified: February 22, 2017