I recently read a book called "The Hopeful Skeptic" by Nick Fiedler. In the beginning of the book, he and his wife go on a 14-month trip around the world. As they are packing and putting things into storage and throwing other things away, he realizes that he has a peculiar connection to his books.
His books are trophies. They are conquests. They are badges of honor. Ones he hasn't read still sit on the shelf because he wants to look more intelligent.
His books begin to define him and give him value.
There was a lot of thought-provoking stuff in that book but I think I connected the most with that one little anecdote.
I have a large bookshelf that is built into my wall. It was one of the things I was most excited about when I moved into my new room last year. I have a lot of books and it would be great to have a place to prominently display them. And like Nick, they are a source of pride for me. It is a good feeling having an 11-book series all displayed in order with the knowledge that I have actually read all of them. There is a nice boxed set of Lord of the Rings. There is a growing collection of books by N.T. Wright so you know that I am smart.
I have a bunch of books around that I have no intention of reading again but I think they might be of use to someone someday. Then I can be the cool person who lent the book to the other person and helped them fix their life.
Just make sure you give it back to me.
The shelves have a sort of order to them. The shelf in this story was the one with my practicum books and a few other random ones that didn't fit anywhere else like Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything" and Michael Crichton's "Timeline."
Last night I grabbed Timeline off the shelf to read the opening paragraph. I noticed that the book was stuck to the shelf. I gave it a good tug and it let go. As I turned it around to open it, I noticed dirt clods on the edges. I forced the book open, which broke the clods. What was in them? I am glad you asked!
There were termites in my book! I inspected the shelf a little closer and noticed that they were building a colony out of my bookshelf.
A quick note: Here is a list of other things I have found in my house in the last few years: Kittens, spiders, giant spiders (notice how far south they are found), roaches, rats, a plague of flies (presumably from a dead rat. sick.), and flooding. This was a new one.
They were eating the binding on the books. It had been a while since I had looked closely at some of the books but they were literally rotting away on my shelf. It was disgusting.
My landlord came over and we picked up a chunk of books, threw them away and sprayed a termite killer on the shelf. This was repeated until we had them all.
All in all, I lost about 20 books. I have an empty shelf that is doubling as a termite graveyard.
And Jesus' words from the sermon on the mount started playing in my head.
19"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It was a eerie and very tangible reminder that the things we use to define ourselves are temporary. You never know when you will come home one day to find a termite colony eating your book collection.
Moral of the story? Termites are gross and don't put your hope in possessions.