Monday, August 19, 2019

We're All Here To Teach One Another

I like reading and then subsequently owning hard cover books. About a decade ago, my wife and I purged our lives of our excess possessions, emptying cellars, garages, attics, and cupboards before moving into a small apartment where we live amongst only our most beautiful or useful possessions. We count our thousands of hard bound books in both categories. One of my hobbies is to peruse the aisles of the few used bookstores remaining in Seattle, hunting out not just particular titles and authors, but also books with covers that will enhance our shelves.

I was reading one of our newest acquisitions over the weekend when I turned to page 152 and found, to my dismay, that the book's spine had been broken. For those of you who read paperbacks or from e-readers (no judgement), that means that some clumsy, careless, or malevolent reader of the book had handled it in such a way that the pages had become separated from the binding. I felt a surge of disappointment, of loss, followed by an urge to scold and blame. My wife had read the book before me, maybe she needed a reminder. No, she might occasionally dog ear page, but treasures books as much as I do. Maybe I should take it back to the used book seller and demand a refund. No, they're a small business probably barely eking by: this is by all rights a buyer-beware situation. Could it have been my fault somehow? Could it be repaired? Do people repair bindings any longer? Am I going to have to seek out another copy of this book for our shelves?

It was all silliness, of course. There was and is nothing to be done. Every binding of every book ever published is going to, in the course of time, pull away from its binding, not to mention return to dust. Indeed, knowing what we think we now know about the nature of time, the spine has always been broken. It's not mine to bemoan it's loss, but rather to take pleasure in it, to use it now, while it is a book. 

Last week, I was playing with a two-year-old. She was picking up objects one and two at a time, studying them, putting them through their paces, combining this object with that, fiddling, experimenting, using them, filling her hands and brain and heart with them, then dropping them to the ground, not necessarily forgotten, but without regret or remorse. I thought of her as I contemplated the broken spine of my book. Oh, to have the capacity of a two-year-old, the wisdom, to live in the world as it truly is.

We're all here to teach one another.

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