04 April 2012
I was a fool I am a fool I have been fooled
Books. I love books.
I have been reading books for thirty years. I like the way they look on shelves. I like the smell. i like the feel. ( I hate dust covers). I started young, engaging Peanuts Encyclopedias in preschool, off in the corner and forgotten. I read the real encyclopedia en toto - 1963 Britannica. I was a devourer of books. Books are holy. A good book, a really good book is as important to me as any Bible and just as sacrosanct but when I read them I destroy them, broken spines and dog-ears. They are not relics, but the living Word. Books!
I keep them on my shelf. I am not so nearly omnivorous as a younger me was, but they are there. Books are patient. I haven't read most of them but they are there waiting, and I'll flip one open sometime and read and make a serious and non-binding commitment to keep that one around. I have not paid for many of them, and when I have its second hand. Books seek me out but I am not possessive of them, come over and talk and ill give you a couple you might like.
The great books raised me, fathered me. To be a man and then to be human I read Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Miller, London, Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Heller, Nabokov, Laozi, Euripides, Dostoyevski, Steinbek, Marquez, Spark, Roth, Vonnegut, Mushima, de Saint-Exupéry, Murakami. I read Mann, Conrad, Whitman, Atwood, Baudelair, Blake, Valery, Sebald, Bellow, Lawrence, Durell, Murakami. And not just read, not just enjoyed, or critiqued. I have believed them! What is shown not what is said. Starting with the Bible and working foreword then back again to Homer, I have held books as volumes of truth - literate art.
"Reading is absurd, isn’t it? Page after page of symbols. Voices in our heads that aren’t our own. Why persist? We may read for entertainment, to pass the time, to visit other worlds, to expand our sense of what is possible. We hunt for treasure, rarely satisfied, but seeking new things to which we can aspire, clues and answers to what our lives are meant to be. At best, perhaps, we read to challenge ourselves and to be changed." Chris Dodge 2005 Utne Reader.
Let me tell you something about all that reading I have done. It has seriously fucked up my life.
This dawned on me as I was watching television. Why am I watching this, I asked myself. Then I answered: I am watching an imagined form wherein nobody is working, or paying bills, or standing in lines to windows that redirect them to other windows. Television and Film - multi sensory expansion on the basic story. Yes, people in stories do have jobs and often struggle with the banalities of life, but they are not engaged in those when we read or watch them, and they are struggling with the banality itself rather than the actual banal processes of life. What wonders that does for these characters. It frees up their time and energy to struggle with the bigger questions or to protagonize against the banalities, or to totally engage their emotions on love,hate, futility, confusion, grandeur, etc.
If you are an astute reader you are ahead of me already. It seems that I have let myself believe that that is how life truly is. Obviously we can ignore that humming truth and live in the sphere of the mundane and vulgar like the other schmucks, but why - when the truth is right there so rich and pure? And what if the truth is a painful burden. It is the burden of the privileged, the illuminated!
I tell you that way is rule the way of the privileged. The privileged patricians and madmen. The real burden is the common one, unshedable and insufferable.
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken"
And I don't even buy this, even as I type it. No matter how much life shows otherwise. No matter how often the things I have let myself believe make my life and relationships untenable, I still won't let go.
Thank you books. I wish I could quit you.