Yes, It Is Work, but Crossing Those Cultural Bridges…

I have written before about my affection for bookstores and particularly our own. And I must emphasize that I am praising places where books are displayed for access—my affection doesn’t extend to warehouses or places where books cannot be touched. Yes, I value libraries, but no matter how far I permit myself to become entangled in the vagaries of book collecting, afflicted by Gentle Madness, the safest of addictions of most edifying material lusts, I cannot forget that book value, whether conceptual or monetary, begins with content. Finished books preserve content in durable form. Bookstores present these simple packages of thought and vision for fertile minds to choose.

Simply standing in a bookstore or library has beneficial effect on human nature. I value humility and can’t reckon when its value is lost. A bookstore reminds one of the vastness of human experience and how its sum will bury the most ambitious among us. Does it surprise you that I find joy in this?

Maybe I am not as playful as I was in early childhood, but the awe I experience at work is real. I stand at intersections with more roads and bridges than can be counted. Each calls portents of stories half heard, maybe only rumored, possibly ordinary, but grown to fantastic proportions in the soil of unknowing. To immerse oneself in a book is like crossing a bridge to a foreign consciousness, because, as far as I can tell, my own senses and mind are my only native consciousness. Maybe the multiverse is all minds together, each the center of its own apparent universe.

It is precious and bold to enter another’s mind. Authors invite us in. The old and excellent technology of the book preserves the ideas, fancies and discoveries of authors well past their lives. Books are reproduced and their influence may proliferate. Books are found at the foundations of nearly all important developments in history. Fascist cultures are the first to slump to censorship.

Books bridge time by making the words of persons of earlier eras available for us. Books bridge cultural space by the labor of translation, offering us chances to understand and respect the diversity of our world. Despite the abundant harrowing news, humanity has progressed over the eras and the light provided by books is the main reason.

Reading, like choosing and walking paths, requires singular and effort. Whether one ponders 10 or 1000 books, one can only read one at a time. The unwalked paths and unread books, must wait until I make time. Until then, their quiet nudging potential, my awareness of how much bigger we are than I, their mere presence, their dormant yet vital promise excites my days, like realizing that no number of terms can describe the infinitesimal increments between green and blue.