Written at Suzallo Library, University of Washington, Seattle
Wandering through the stacks of the library I was struck by a feeling that I am looking for something in the books, and the thing I am looking for is myself.
What if every time you read a book, part of your soul entered into that book and stayed with it? What if all the copies of that book, all over the world, become somehow imbued with your essence? What if, having read a book in childhood, you stumble again up on it, and in it recognize an earlier copy of yourself?
In Mormon parlance, books are the sacrament of my religion, and libraries are my temple.
I find myself re-reading the books of my childhood. Most of these books I read for the first time in middle school, or perhaps high school though I think most of my favorites I had read already before that time. Damascus Middle School and the librarian Mr. Rutherford thus constitute the founding place and founding prophet of my religion. My sacred texts were written by John Christopher, Poul Anderson, Robert Gilman and god knows who else that I have forgotten, but whose writings still hold part of my soul, waiting to be rediscovered.
I also find myself drawn to genres that in the past imparted energy: Mormon history, Russian sectarianism, a whole slew of writings that are attached to various phases of my former self. Why am I drawn to these other than a nostalgic reminiscence, a striving to resurrect who and what I was at a point in time? Like the intellectually impoverished modern-day churchgoer I have my holy books and return again and again, to the point of madness. Recreating the past, not building the future. Why?
My mind has worn the carpets of these libraries into grooves which it can’t seem to escape.
I baptized myself in the Spokane River this weekend, along with N.R. It seems a significant milestone considering that the last such moment in time was in a pool, in the Selkirk Mountains below a waterfall with J.M. attending. Perhaps J’s failure to immerse himself was a cause of our subsequent rift, or a sign of its coming.
A chain of events unfolding: commencing my MBA, the smell of books in Moscow; a conference in Denmark where my life’s path was forever redirected. Striving for more, finding Microsoft, believing in that aspiration and realizing it now more than three years. Ireland, breaking away and fulfilling one dream, to find that more awaited in the new country. All because I smelled books and came home to my own soul, waiting those many years in a library. The smell of books was a revelation, forgotten but with waiting potency. Power to change my life and set me on a course I knew not where. Leading here.
So many wasted hours, days, years. A wasted life in some respects. Every moment not spent living, not spent writing, was spent dying. The seeds of death in every idle thought and every un-swept corner. Life breeds words and those words create life. Like a mummy putting life away, then drawing it out again through countless centuries passing. Can I only take, or can I give? Will I try? Will I realize the next layer of consciousness and existence, deny the weight of death and push toward a new future? Will I write? But before writing, will I live?
Hedged in by fears. Though many lay dead there are hundreds more to slay. Fearsome monsters lay prostrate at my feet: God, Mother, Father, Family, all dead. Perhaps smaller fears are all the more fearsome for their diminution: Write, Fight, Live, Explore, Create, Lead, Learn. And these fears are alive, these fears taunt me now. I will slay them all.
A raw thing, struggling for breath, to be born. Pushing on the membrane of yet another birthing. Another life awaits the new thing struggling in my breast, it will kill me to be born but I will die! I will destroy this world and on its ashes create the next, not better, not progress, but new and different in subtle ways. The path is not clear and no man has trod it before, for I must create it in front of me. I come to the library because in these books my soul dwells. I find renewal here and perhaps I find a vision of myself, old and young, past and future, child and frail old man. Break his bones to make your bread, the bread which grants the next un-eternal life.
It’s not just me here, I can feel all of them, the wise ones, the elders speaking to me through silence. D.J. is here, G.B, M.H, the old ones. They had their truth, some strove, they grew old and perhaps even now are dying or dead. But they had words. I have proof of their existence because they are here with me in this temple. They are the real ones. I must become real also, and in that reality I will see the next horizon to which I must strive in turn. With death, at last, the final frontier.