Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Be Anxious For Nothing

It was a few months ago that I found this place, a used bookshop in St. Paul, Minnesota.  I rushed through the stacks and saw someone's breathing dream.  There is just something about old books, the dog-eared pages, the musty smells that sometimes accompany them.  They have been lived in, dreamed about and sometimes it's just the pulp of pulp.  It's the readers that keep these works alive and you can tell a lot about a culture by what is celebrated or pushed into a hidden corner. It's a strange thing to discover a book store and then when you try to scour the web to find it again, to remember the details, the seating areas and how almost each and every detail had the touch of the proprietors hands, only to come up short and not find it.

I had been in a rush, it was the end of a day, and I snapped the picture because I wanted to remember this place, this storehouse of secret pleasures, serialized novels, the ink that had been poured out because there are many stories in this world.  In spite of the economic downturn, the bookstores still go on and the invitation to hear the lives of others continues.  I had remembered my excitement as a youth about finding these places throughout the cities.  New authors, old olds, and the ancients that had stood the test of time.

I have remembered, not forgotten going through those marvelous stacks, perhaps to find an obscure work, a celebrity's biography and advice about how to live life.  There are no shortages of others trying to tell us how things are or what to do to be like them.  I used to read them for their comical value.  Even more hilarious are the books that try to tell you how to be yourself, how to love and accept yourself in a world of forced compliance and conformity.

I lingered, I scanned the aisles, the stacks and thought how I could lose myself for days here.  The winter months are fast approaching and winter usually meant finding a good book during the hibernating months.  Little seeds of thought and wonder, when perhaps you find a work that isn't so well read, or well written and perhaps you wonder how it made it into print.  Books were times of sharing stories, inspiring thought, an intimate exchange of ideas between the writer and the reader.  I remember what it was like to be enthralled by the voice of the writer, and have know times where a work laid there, half read because there was nothing that engaged my mind.

I remember the days of actively seeking out new works, discovering old voices and hearing the dialogue bounce like music in my mind.  The conspiracy that would take place as you worried for a character, and cared, in spite of their obvious flaws, you had compassion for them.  There was something about them that you identified with and at times, there were those you had little in common with, but their story compelled you to listen.  How did they deal with the circumstances of life, of love, and even of death?  That wanting to know, perhaps gleaning some lessons, or hearing the pastoral display of their image, surroundings, the stereotypical use of language to immediately project an image in your mind of what surrounded them, who they were speaking to, and how they reacted to the latest threat or travesty that befell them.

If you notice, there isn't a story without tragedy or conflict.  There is a war and in the midst of all of this drama that plays out there is a challenge of the heart.  We sometimes bemoan the choices of the characters and have to be swayed by their decisions or not.  The reader could decide to be the impartial observer, having a moment to forget about their own troubles in life to concentrate on the fictions or real problems of others.  However, do we have a sense anymore of what it would be like to be in another person's life?

I thought of how much work revolves around our material appetites of money, sex and food.  The higher works try to take us out of the base realms into love and virtue.  Still higher yet, we see the works that act as puzzles to stimulate our intellect.  Until we reach the spiritual realms of morality, God and Church,

The range of our human experience is catalogued in books, without a right or wrong place of being.  Still, the need changes as our words and usage changes.  Languages that are used are living languages, but the human experience is ever changing as we go on.  Bookstores are those repositories of just how much we have changed as documented by the writers of their ages.  What was valued, believed, shared and reserved is a deep reflection of what mattered most.

It's not always easy to go through these changes, but the results are usually worth it.  Humanity wasn't built for comfort or easy answers, it was meant to grow in ways we may never get to witness in our time.  That's where hope comes in, a deep hope that we will value one another and our collective experience on this world.

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