Looking at the bottom shelf of one of my bookcases, I saw the hardbound, plastic-enveloped used copy of Nathaniel Philbrick’s Mayflower that I just got for $1 at the library the other week. I felt incredibly lucky and delighted.
I wondered if I should write about it. Then, I realized it’s the perfect thing to write about on Thankskgiving: the incredible good fortune I feel at the wonderful library I’ve amassed over my life. And, now, while I type, I realize that this is the ideal book to have inspired me today. (Sometimes it takes a while for the light to dawn on Marblehead.)
But, this is not about the significance of today being day that commemorates the celebration of 1621; it’s about the awesome blessing of having a personal library.
I was looking at that book and thinking, here it is and it’s mine. It’s just a book, but this is what I was thinking. And, it’s what I was feeling, too. This is strange, actually. Why should I feel this way about a book? But it’s the kind of thing that happens to people now and again.
And, isn’t it great that these moments of insightful appreciation happen to us? Because, truly, we are lucky for seemingly little things like books and other stuff that we ordinarily handle as though they were a dime a dozen. They aren’t. These moments remind us of that. There’s a flash of clarity, a sense of gratitude and, then, it flees from us like a sound in the air.
But – and this is important – there are times when our ears retain the echo of that sound. And, the way we hear things from that time on changes a bit. Really, it’s a tiny little change, but it hopefully helps us in the future to remember our good luck. We look back, touch the memory and recall how lucky we are even if we’ve, in the interim, forgotten it. It’s really highly valuable for all the cornball sweetness that it seems to be. (And, we all know the allergy our era has developed to anything sweet and good.)
Why am I so lucky to have a book? Well, for one thing, I bought it. I was able to do that. It was only a dollar. But, it was a dollar I didn’t need for the bus or a couple of phone calls. It was a price that made a beautiful hardcover filled with story accessible to me or whomever happened by the library book sale at that moment. Lucky.
Why else? Well, another thing is that I didn’t have to rely on someone giving me a gift. Gifts are wonderful, necessary to the giver and recipient, and giving is beneficial to society in general. But, it’s nice to have acquired something for oneself, through one’s own power. Even if that power was only a dollar. This is one reason I like used book sales so much. In a time when the minimum wage is only $7.25, it’s important that people can boost their personal stores of information and entertainment cheaply.
More? It’s tangible. Try holding a book in your hand. It feels good. It looks good. A nice book is a decoration in addition to a form of recreation and self-edification. You buy a book, you get art – the visual kind as well as the written.
Finally, think about it: years back, people would’ve had to self everything they had – including the hair off their heads if it was nice enough for wig-making – to purchase a library of their own. If I’m to believe what reasoning – and teachers – have told me, it wouldn’t exactly have been as easy as a swipe of the Mastercard to have asked Gutenberg to print me up a Bible, or anything else. I can’t afford an I-Pad now, and I couldn’t have bought a book then, most likely. We are remarkably blessed to have shelves in our homes that we can walk up to and pull a book from. (In Google’s age, we forget that even more, I’d dare to say.)
So, this is what my chance glance at my copy of Mayflower made me think about on this particular day. What are you thinking about today?