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A promise …

January 30, 2021

After a concerted effort over the last 10 days decluttering and culling my many bookcases I have made myself a promise. Since beginning my BA with the Open University in the 1990s; with which to study Classical History in particular and many to do with the two Enlightenments.  Then while learning to read Classical Greek and Latin I accumulated dictionaries, grammar books and readers.  After graduating and with a love of dead languages I went to study Sanskrit at SOAS in London and Classical Tibet with ITAS and gathered more books about the beginnings of language, the culture of India, and Tibet and Buddhism with a view that one day I might translate some very early works and teachings. This didn’t happen due to events beyond my control and with some regret the books became redundant.  

Meanwhile, my bookshelves continued to fill with novels, poetry, books about art, gardening, food, nature, travel, and an extensive record collection; now beyond the gunnels, my life and home was sinking. The time had come to recognise that some books no longer have relevance in my life and if I wish to work and read for the next 30 years, I must address the issue now.

However, while I was ready to begin the task, it was not without physical and mental challenges. The books were many and some large I had no space for sorting or storing until they were sold or taken to a charity shop, logistically it was problematic. Then there was the psychological impact, the books bought at significant cost, some barely read, others beyond comprehension; all representing the pain of study. The guilt, shame, regret and surprising attachment and utter contempt was as powerful as any shackles and sword as I sorted the books one by one.  I was mentally torn and exposed as any criminal or worse an addict. 

While, I was able to sell some of the books the return will not meet my costs or indeed sooth the wounds.  Alongside this I have boxes of books ready to go to the charity shop, when they open after the pandemic.  The books remain a constant reminder that no matter what the blurb says they are merely a tool they are not the outcome and only go some way to make or improve me. They had become a ugly crutch.

I will continue to collect books.  While I was studying the Enlightenments, it seems that it was men who did the lighting up, the women remained in the dark in more ways than one. However, to address this is a tiny way I am going to continue to read and collect books and listen and collect music by women who have made a mark on me and the world at large, without shame or regret.  I may have to put a budget in place but pleasingly literature is much more accessible now and there are ways to ‘discover’ knowledge without filling up shelves. 

So this what I will start with this …

One Comment leave one →
  1. linda broadbent permalink
    May 9, 2021 1:15 pm

    I’m glad to have found you among your books and discover another person with an equal complex relationship with books. Beautiful writing about your subject: ‘The guilt, shame, regret and surprising attachment and utter contempt was as powerful as any shackles and sword as I sorted the books one by one. I was mentally torn and exposed as any criminal or worse an addict.’

    I started my ‘cull’ during the first lockdown, thanks to webuybooks nudging and tempting me with better rewards, the longer I took to make the decision to release them into the wild. I managed to get from three IKEA Billy bookcases down to one. It was the only way I could free up space to change the purpose of the room from study to studio. Some books I think I still have, yesterday I went looking for An Ecology of Mind, Bateson only to discover that was despatched. I laughed. Thoughts of being an amputee and the feeling that the limb was still there. The memory of the book and it’s position on the shelf is still with me. Gone but not forgotten.

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