Giving things away is counter-intuitive – you ask yourself “who would want this, if I don't?” - but the Railway Table continues to act as a hub for the exchange of books. What are we giving each other?
Literature, entertainment, stories that reinforce our beliefs and our social paradigms? All of those things, yes, but we are also part of an active cultural cycle. Somewhere I read recently that all of the great empires of history have suffered cultural decline before the knives were sharpened, the guns primed and the lynch mobs gathered. It is an endless comfort to me that so many of my fellow-commuters want to read and, judging by what turns up, want to read classics, contemporary authors and difficult subjects.
Emergent systems will often give you what you ask for. It's not that they have some in-built fairy godmother function but that they will always try to connect, however inappropriately, to other systems around them. And we all know there are only six degrees of separation...I wonder if that was true before we made it true by watching the movie?
Another place that functions as a sort of Railway Table for Everything is Freecycle – check it out at www.yahoo.groups – a locally-based free-bay where people give away what is surplus or no longer needed from clothes to chickens to building materials to trampolines. All of these systems build a new foundation within the consumerist wasteland; a desire to share, to have something in common and to experience our culture, not consume it or participate in the endless, mind-numbing trading that makes my words more valuable than yours.
Desire traps emergent systems – when I want to read something about female monsters, the Railway Table provides murderesses, adulteresses, vengeful mothers, wicked aunts. When I just want a day off, I get simple love stories. Like Ariel, the table knows what we want and is constrained to provide it. Desires become real. We are not so different from each other. I leave a book on the table hoping someone comes along who wants to giggle and shiver just like I did, and of course someone does.
More than ever, in this responsive world we are creating, we should be careful what we wish for.