Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Unchanged

A compound wardrobe made of huanghuali rosewoo...


Yesterday, as I was musing about unfinished books as reminders of the person I used to be, I realized there's more to it than association. Some memories are tactile and merely the act of touching the pages of one's history can render it eerily present. And then, there are the books whose characters and contents are persistent, drawing me back year after year, stories I've lived through like cycles of reincarnation, revealing how unchanged I am, after all.

I was in seminary when I first read the line, "In a hole in the ground, lived a Hobbit," but even the best of Peter Jackson's CGI is unable to compete with my imagination. Film can't transport me to Helms Deep, or permit me to walk the Paths of the Dead, or wield my sword in battle side by side with Aragorn before the walls of Minis Tirith, but Tolkien does. Still.

It's the same with Aslan and the Pevensie children. We met in my second year of seminary, and to this day, I can't look into a wardrobe or dark closet without knocking on the rear wall, hoping it opens into Narnia. I haven't read them lately, but I don't have to. One glance at their spines and I'm riding the deck of the Dawn Treader and adventure lies on the horizon.

In my senior year of high school, I happened across The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. Diligent non-conformist that I was, she found me to be fertile ground for her depiction of the individual against the collective. Although rotations will prevent my attending the high school reunion planned in August, if I were to go, my classmates would find I haven't mellowed a bit. The call to conform with neither reason nor rhyme rankles and raises my hackles faster than the Millenium Falcon can make the jump to light speed.

One evening in my third seminary year, I encountered an old man in the dining hall whom I'd never thought I'd meet. Quaker philosopher David Elton Trueblood, whose autographed copy of A Place to Stand sits on my desktop, has never ceased to inform my thinking about what it means to be a person of faith. Some don't need Reason to have faith, I do, even when my logic goes unsatisfied and Mystery shows me how shoddy are my efforts. Maybe this is a liability, I don't know, but Trueblood gave me permission to ask my questions, encouraging me to never stop, and I try to follow his advice.

Perhaps we accumulate books because of what they do as much as for the tales they tell, informing us who we are, reminding us who we once were, and prodding us to envision who we might become. Then again, maybe this is just another way of justifying the use of my Border's Rewards card. Between me and you, I doubt it, though. I really do.


(GNU Free Documentation image via Wikipedia)
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