I thought I was doing pretty well with the letting go of things as I pack to move cross country. I've sold a lot of furniture on craigslist.com (Best. Web site. Ever.) and built a massive pile in my dining room of decorative items, linens, clothes, shoes, and all kinds of other stuff for a garage sale and/or donation. But I was having trouble selling myself the idea of leaving books behind.
I love books. I refer to Barnes & Noble as the Vatican and I tithe like an alter boy in the priest's chambers. My "To Read" pile eats up a healthy bite of my bookshelves and just keeps getting fatter. I often wonder how I escaped the publishing industry for so long.
When I was getting estimates for moving trucks, I was dismayed to find they were much higher than I anticipated. I was told my books were what raised the tally because they are heavy (especially since I have a thing for hardbacks) and estimates are based on weight in the truck. Darn. The price of being educated.
I decided to weed out my library, but I didn't do a very good job. There may have been 15-20 books I was willing to part with, all novels or things I'd read halfway then lost interest in. (I gained back about 10 bookmarks tho!) It wasn't even really a dent. I accepted that it's going to be an expensive move, and packed the rest.
Then the other day I read something that flipped a switch. Books "belong to the world" a particular blog stated, and they should be passed around and shared, just like music. Hmm. I nodded in agreement, but my conscience was poking me because I know I'm not walking my talk. I've had an account with bookcrossing.com for four years (another awesome web site), and I've registered exactly four books - all within the first few weeks of membership. Not what I'd call a shining example of sharing.
I've always felt a bit of unrest too in the fact that books are made of paper, which means dead trees, and the more I buy, the more I'm contributing to killing trees. Especially if I'm recommending other people buy the same book instead of just giving them my copy. Not cool. But I still love my books. There's something very relaxing about seeing them lined up in a bookcase; or being curled up in a chair with one, your favorite beverage on the table by your side.
Anyway, I questioned if I was being selfish. :sigh: Yes, probably so. My rationale has always been that I might need to reference them later when I'm writing, but I know deep down it's super rare that I've ever actually gone back to look something up. In fact, even if I did, the chances of me remembering which book to look in were pretty slim, and half the time I can find it faster on the Net. Sometimes it sucks to be so internally honest.
So I asked myself, "Why do I have such a hard time letting go of books?" Well, I like having them in my home because they make it feel cozy and comfortable, like a bookstore or coffee shop. Somewhere in the grey matter I also knew it was a little bit because I feel like people with a lot of books are generally smart, and I want others that visit me to think I'm smart too without me having to demonstrate it. Ego was lurking in the corner at this point, looking guilty and trying not to be conspicuous.
"Which books do I like having the most?" I asked. Definitely the New Agey-spiritual ones. (They are a majority of my collection.) "Ok, then what is it about the New Agey-spiritual ones that I like so much?" Ego's virtual hand shot up despite myself. "Because they make me feel more spiritual and surely they project my enlightenment to the world!"
Oh Ego, if I give you enough rope, you always hang yourself.
The floodlight was tripped and I realized that if that's really why I was hanging onto all that ink and paper, beautiful as it may look on cherry shelving, I had COMPLETELY missed the point of the very tomes I stubbornly clutched to my being. Siddhartha was right: Attachment only leads to suffering. (And expensive transnational moves.) You can't find yourself, or a feeling of spirituality, or enlightenment, by looking for it in material things... like books. DUH.
So I actually UN-packed boxes yesterday and sorted out everything I've read. I'm even putting all seven of my hardback first edition Harry Potter books on eBay. (Fantastic story, but seriously, do I need JK Rowling to make me feel magical?) I kept any I hadn't read yet and my absolute favorites like Conversations With God, The Red Book, Surfing the Himalayas, and God's Debris. I then noticed I still have more than enough to create a cozy feeling, especially since I'm not taking all my shelves with me. After I finish reading the books that made the cut, they'll be moving on. I'll probably have bought twice as many to replace them by then anyway, plus it gives me reason to explore new coffee houses in San Diego and find public bookshelves in need.
I'm leaving all my Book Darts (yet another fabulous idea) in the titles I'm giving away too. I always found used books that have notes in the margins especially intriguing because it leaves much to the imagination about who the previous owner was. Book Darts offer even less explanation, but the places I mark are generally good points to spend a few extra minutes pondering. This spreads a bit of a balm on my strangled Ego too, thinking the next reader might possibly stop and wonder who I am and what made me single out that particular passage.
Maybe the truck and my spirit will be a little lighter now.