Sunday, April 12, 2009

security vs standing up

As you might know if you read this blog regularly, I've been sorting through books. About 11 boxes have already gone out the door in one way or another and I have about 10 more left to either sell or consign to thrift stores. I still have about 16 bookshelves left so don't imagine a book-less house.

Most of these discarded books, surprisingly to me, were no-brainers in the clearance process. They were almost all good books, except for a few that I picked up at the dime rack that were more like pseudo-books. Those were easy to get rid of.

Some were from past seasons of our lives, like my daughter's extensive horse book collection -- we kept a few treasures like Marguerite Henry's Album of Horses, but got rid of the 5-pound encyclopedias and riding manuals that aren't particularly useful to her anymore. Similarly with my second son's vast collection of reptile books -- we kept a few well-worn representative treasures, got rid of the rest.

The category that surprised me the most was the old homeschooling books. I had an archaeological deposit of them from various eras of my life. At various times I had lent out or given away a few but I had kept my "core". The same with old, GOOD curricula that I never used but respected too much to consign to the giveaway pile. However, this Lent I was able to divest myself of 80% of these. I thought it would be a terrible wrench, but in fact it was like when I gave up blogging last year for Lent -- it felt like a good stretch.

I was reading Johny Tremain to Kieron and Paddy and Aidan through March, and the last chapter is called A Man Can Stand Up. It is about the battle for liberty. For some reason, this phrase kept running through my head as I sorted through books. I collect books because of freedom ... books are purveyors of ideas. At the same time, it's not having the books that purveys freedom. It's what they can bring into your mind and heart.

I have had a problem since I can remember. I want to surround myself with security. So whatever I value I collect and then I use those things as a shelter and barricade. The problem is that the things often go relatively unused; I become like a dragon sleeping on a hoard. The security of having them starts replacing the value of what attracted me to them in the first place.

We still have a LOT of books! But the process of sorting through them and evaluating -- do I still need this? is it being actively used or will it be in the near future? is it a deadweight in this house at this time? has helped me let go of a certain dependence I was hardly aware of, since book collecting is one of those "good" addictions. In Johny Tremain, James Otis illustrates his point about liberty by standing up in the slanting-roofed attic.

"It is all so much simpler than you think," he said. He lifted his hands and pushed against the rafters. " simple thing. Only that a man can stand up."

Of course I am using his quote to illustrate a rather different thing than national liberty, but I did feel slightly the same way as I weeded. Plus it was really helpful to me to be able to sell some of the books. I never used to sell old books. I just didn't want to get into the whole thing of exchanging cash. It still feels viscerally a bit like the money-changers to me. However, selling has allowed me to let go of books that weren't suited to my family, but which I had a lot of respect for. If someone buys a book, I know they have or at least think they have a place for it in their family. If I hand off a box of books at the thrift store, or at the next homeschool meeting, the treasures MIGHT find a valued place on someone's shelves, but they could also end up being tossed (probably my worst nightmare if I happen to love the book).

Anywa, now that I've gone through for the first time and made all the obvious decisions, I'm going to start going through again and making some of the tougher calls. That was actually how this post started -- but it got away from me, not for the first time!

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