At the dump the other day, I reached into the paper bin to retrieve a slim volume of what I thought might be racy medieval lyrics — in Latin, as it turned out — and a fat “History of the World” by Toynbee, though abridged.
The inscription referred to Santayana’s opinion that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, though the tome, while moldy (presumably the reason for it having been discarded, along with quite a few other books), didn’t look as if it had been read.
I don’t blame the recipient, for it is also true that if we only remember the past we are condemned to become bores. Anyway, didn’t someone also say that history is what historians say it is (or was that editors?). Voltaire said history was “nothing more than a tableau of crimes and misfortunes.” And Joyce said it was a nightmare from which he was trying to awake.
But rather than consign Toynbee’s abridged history to the dustbin, I placed it back on the ledge, and was happy to see someone in an orange shirt and backward tilting baseball cap pick it up and place it in his car.
It is this that used to attract me to the dump — the giving and taking. Though other than the occasional finds upon the ledges, which the staff customarily sweep clean, that communal era has ended, the exchange area seemingly having been consigned to the dustbin of local history.
But maybe we should dust it off, for the other day when I went into the Ladies Village Improvement Society’s building, staggering under the weight of a dozen winter coats, I almost was turned away, its basement apparently having become stuffed with stuff.
And now, having just returned from a cursory foray to the rear of the East Hampton Library, whose director, Dennis Fabiszak, is in danger of being buried in his office by boxes containing recent donations — the library had received, he told me, “5,000 books in the past 10 days” — there seems all the more reason to repeat the past lest we are condemned to forget it.