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Day 36: Attachment in the Stacks

Updated: Dec 24, 2023

My attachment to books is deep; my practice of release needs to improve as I age. I'm working on it...

The renovation of our home, from kitchen into bathrooms, painting and more, meant boxing all of the books upstairs in the loft. Season of spring, Passover/Easter, I also took it as an opportunity to look for the leaven, we might say. What needed cleaning out? What could I get rid of, with a sense of 'letting go'? It was refreshing to siphon off the unnecessary and review the still-connected-or-necessary books. It was deeply satisfying to place the bookshelves back after the paint had dried, and to reorganize everything til it was just so.

Pressing questions drive this organization, of course. Poetry and fiction together or separate? Where do the writing-creativity books go in relation to the reference works? Should body or nature books be in the ‘regular stacks’ or in a section all to themselves?

Does anyone else spend energy here? I can imagine so many of us not caring in the least...

Which is why I say my attachment to books is deep. They mean more to me than just what the words say or point to. It's a little like returning to a photo-album from spiritual journeys of old (or new). Reorganizing my books is a mental house-cleaning.

Imagine the excitement when it was time to do this task in my campus office as well!

That stash has more disciplinary questions to consider. One ‘stack’ alphabetized by author or separate divisions identified by disciplinary focus? After over a decade of interreligious learning/teaching, the question of ‘by tradition’ also arises. Should books be organized by tradition, to honor the elders, or by author, so to honor the world in all its diversity and complication? I remember the last time I did this, it made sense for there to be one stash, but I kept the Jewish resources separate and at the beginning of the collection. It felt poetic somehow, like honoring the observance that separates, allowing a deeper Jewishness, alongside the multitudes of voices all around.

This weekend, I released well over 200 books back into the universe, with prayers that their words offer healing and wisdom to whomever might find them. I decided it was finally time for the one-stack, alphabetized by author, honoring a unity I hope for more and more deeply in the world. Not at expense of finding oneself—though that may happen when a book isn’t where it used to be for me—but a hopeful statement all the same.

So my mental house-cleaning is nearly finished. The “library stacks” at both home and campus feel sparkling and inviting again. I can feel the anticipation of opening some of the texts I'd forgotten, getting curious what Spirit may be nudging in me to receive.

Trouble is, I’m in such multi-purpose, task-oriented head-space that I cannot sit still enough, for very long, to read.

Any of them.

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