Inquiring Days

On November 1, 1963, the New York Public Library Reference Desk received an inquiry:

“Could you tell me the thickness of a US Postage Stamp with the glue on it?”

Unfortunately, the Library was unable to provide a timely answer.

“Sorry,” the reference librarian responded to the inquirer. “We couldn’t tell you that quickly, why don’t you try the post office.”

To which the inquirer responded:

“This is the post office.”

Sometimes we need to get outside ourselves to find ourselves.

We know a lot about who we are, but we don’t know it all. We’re thrown out of the womb and into the wilderness, and we figure ourselves out as we fumble through the darkness.

But there are days when we come up against something we haven’t figured out, when we feel like we’re out of our element or falling short.

These are days when we don’t yet know the full measure of our own might, mind, or heart. And these are days for inquiring, for going out beyond ourselves to a wise soul or reference librarian. To a set of eyes who can see us from above the tree line rather than deep in the weeds.

It takes courage to ask and humility to listen. But it’s filled with forward momentum. Because when we ask, it’s recognition that on some level we are ready to be enlarged, ready to grow deeper and vaster.

And then off we go into the wilderness, our self-knowledge a little thicker than before. Thicker, perhaps, than a US postage stamp with the glue on it.

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