Thursday, May 26, 2022

The Solace of Books

It has been a strange two weeks, with not one but three mass shootings:  one at a grocery store in a black neighborhood, one at a church where Taiwanese Christians were worshipping, and one at an elementary school. I know that someday I may look back and wonder why I didn't write more about these mass shootings, but I really have nothing to say.

I would be interested to be able to time travel 200 years ahead to see what researchers have discovered about our time. Will there be answers for why we have had so many mass shootings in the last 30 years? We haven't seemed to have assassinations like we did in the late 60s--is that part of the puzzle that's important? We haven't had bomb blasts like other countries have had--does that provide a clue? Like I say, I don't know but I'd be interested to find out. I doubt we'll have enough distance from all of this in my lifetime for me to know.

I started writing a blog post about sorting my books and then remembered that I had already written a blog post about sorting books. That was back in the first day of sorting books, and now I am reaching the end. I'll leave those paragraphs below, with a concluding paragraph that connects book sortings to larger events. If a blog is like a journal, a mapping of our days, then my days have been deep in marked by going through box after box of books. It makes sense that I would write more than one blog post about it.

Every few years, I try to sort through my books. This year I'm doing it in advance of a move, but some years it's been simple logistics as I run out of room on the bookshelves. I try to forgive myself for all the money that I've spent, all the books I thought I would want to own forever, all the resources that have flowed towards publishers. To be honest, if I'm going to overspend, I'd prefer to overspend on books which supports authors.  Buying a book brings me joy like few other things--as habits go I could have worse ones.

This sorting of the books is a much more extensive sorting than some in the past. For all the books that I think that I want to keep, I am holding them in my hand and asking myself, “Do I really need this book?”  I looked through the books to see what I've underlined, and often I wonder why I have kept a book as long as I have. I am giving away a lot of fiction as I am short of time to read new fiction much less return to old fiction. I am taking a hard look at the nonfiction. For example, once I bought every book written by Julia Cameron, of  The Artist’s Way fame.  I decided to keep The Realms of Gold, which is a book that changed my life, so it deserves to travel with me a bit longer. During the last culling of the books in 2020, I kept four additional Julia Cameron books, which will now be going on to other homes.

I feel like I've been rather ruthless, but we're still going to end up with about 10 boxes of books. That's about half of where we started. I'm trying to give myself credit for being willing to part with so many books. I'm trying not to think about the fact that in later years,  I'm likely to part with some of the ones that I'm keeping. I'd like to get better at buying books and letting them go right after I read them, but that may not happen.

As I've sorted books, I've thought about what's happening, across the nation and the planet. I've thought about the power of words, and I've wondered if any of our words can make a difference. I've thought about these books that have been important enough to me to hang onto for years and decades. I've thought about books as solace and inspiration. I've wished that I could create the kind of works that people will hang onto for decades. And who knows? I still have decades of writing life left he read. Perhaps that will happen.

But even if it doesn't, I am grateful for the solace of words, for the solace of words collected into books.

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