An Erudite Haunting

No matter where I move to or how many times I divest myself of my library, it always seems to grow again, like some erudite, shape-shifting sidekick who follows me around. This leaves me with lots of books, which I cherish, but don’t always want.

Fittingly, I am a big fan of giving things away; even important, unique things. Books are a frequent gift. I once gave away a signed copy of a Patti Smith book I’d had a hand in getting published; another time, I gave away a prized edition of Moby Dick illustrated by Maxwell Kent.

This doesn’t mean it’s easy to do, or that I don’t get attached to my books: I do. But notions of ownership and attachment – to possessions, people, identities –  are always worth challenging.

Moreover, giving away does not always mean losing connection with. Every book I’ve given away still resides somewhere in my psyche. The spirit of what I’ve read and assimilated, what I’ve learned and absorbed, still lives in me, in the way an inanimate object doesn’t. What a book has to offer is so far beyond its worth as an object.

So, for this exercise, quite simply, give away a book. Be sure it’s one you’ve read, and one you value. Give it to a friend, to a stranger, offer it to a library. The important part is to be aware of what remains. How the book still resides in you. How it’s changed your internal landscape, the secrets on its pages passed along silently, as though in secret. How its true value has nothing to do with its material presence.

For more mindfulness exercises, look here.

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