Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Purge


I’ve decided to purge some of my 750 book library.

This is quite a shocking development to me. In fact, I’ve only really comes to terms with it in the past six weeks or so.

Why purge?

Couple of reasons. Spring is the time of cleaning, and our home is a mess. Especially the basement, which houses my writing desk, three bookshelves, and literally two dozen stacks of books of varying height. (The highest one is in the corner and reaches about four feet … I hate it when I have to pull out a book near the base.)

We are also considering a long-distance move. It’s still uncertain yet, but if we do up and move, it’s not feasible and doesn’t make sense for me to haul books with me that I will never read again. I keep a lot of what I read for sentimental value.

I also have a lot of books which I haven’t read and probably never will. Life isn’t long enough to read all the good stuff out there. Plus, as a Hopper, my interests zig zag up and down the Dewey Decimal system several times a month. Sometimes I buy a book and by the time I’m finished with my current read my interest has moved on and I won’t get to the new purchase for months or even years later. It’s happened more often than you’d think.

And I’ve come to the realization that these books could be better used by another mind. Stimulating and interesting another person intellectually and spiritually. We’re born into the world with nothing and we leave with nothing, so why hold on? Pass it forward, as they say.

In that spirit, I’ve given away nearly 200 books so far.

First, I sent a whole bunch of mass market paperbacks (well, as popular as I read, and my reading tends toward the more non-conformist) to the local library. They sell them for 50 cents or a buck, and use the money to fund their budget. All well and good, though the libraries round here tend to be a little too progressive for my taste. But at most it’s a twenty or thirty dollar donation.

Second, I packed up all my math and physics books –50 or 60, I didn’t keep track – in a sturdy box and handed them over to my nephew. Math and Physics are young men’s games, and he’s a freshman at an engineering college. My mind is now in its sixth decade, so those cerebral tree trunks have already atrophied. I tried last summer to get myself back into it, but I just couldn’t hold on to everything I read. Like sand slipping between my fingers. Or worse, like water. So hopefully there will be something in that box that will give him some ideas, ignite his imagination, ramp up his determination, and something heavy will come out of it.

It was a varied selection. Some biographies – Einstein, Ramanujan, Erdös. Some textbooks from my college days, some, like ones on Group Theory and General Relativity, purchased for the heck of it. Pop sci from journalists (take ’em for what their worth), “science for the masses” books from legit scientists (Steven Weinberg, Paul Davies, Michio Kaku). Refreshers on calc and trig. Stuff on number theory that I would read in Falls past watching the Giants play on Sundays. Even a book on brain twisters from the great Martin Gardner. I better stop, ’cuz I’m about to cry …

Third, I put all my Catholic books into five double-bagged paper bags – 110 in all; these I did track.

Theology, devotionals, biographies of the saints, apologetics, Catholic classics. Everything from Aquinas and Augustine to the self-help-ish paperbacks my parish hands out periodically. A bio of JP II. Life of Christ by Bishop Sheen. Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson. Biblical exegesis. Various histories of the Catholic Church. Nothing too squishy, and most pretty traditional. But no Bibles – I’m keeping the four or five I have.




Now, my local parish priest is fairly conservative and traditional, which is good. I’ve reached out to him but we haven’t made any arrangements for the donation. He’s thinking of putting them up on the bare shelves in the parish center. If it keeps one young man faithful, then I’d feel my action was justified. As is, with all the problems I have with the current Pope and the Catholic faith post-Vatican II, these books would be much better placed in other hands. After all, the ones I’ve read (and I’ve read Life of Christ four times) I’m most likely not going to read again, and those I haven’t gotten to, I probably won’t at this point.

Still keeping my military history books, because I’m still interested in the topic and there’s still much to learn. Still keeping my Great Books of the Western World collection and all my Tolkien. Still keeping my Orthodox Christianity books (six, so far). Still keeping my unread classic SF, which is always a great palate cleanser. If we are to move out of Chez Hopper for greener pastures, I only plan on taking a hundred or so books with me.


Anybody want to read any philosophy? I have 40 of those cinder blocks I’m willing to part with …

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Patch Parables


A class writing assignment in these ebbing days of the school year, to come up with some parables:


HOW THE SNAKE GOT STRETCHED OUT

One day in the rain forest, a snake and an ox were having a conversation.

“Oh, Snake, you are lucky. You don’t have to work for Man, who makes my coat sweaty, my horns dull. Your smooth skin and legs shine like the moon,” Ox poured out, hoping to get sympathy.
Snake, enjoying the attention, said, “Yes, I’m very lucky and shiny.”

Ox frowned and called out to the bushes. “Man! I’ve got Snake!” Man jumped out of the bushes and wrapped Snake in a net.

“I will poison your crops and food! I will – ” Snake promised.

A week later, Ox was on his break, eating his lunch when he felt ill. The whole rest of the day and the next, he couldn’t work. Snake, who was forced to work, was angry at Man, so he put poison in Man’s worker’s food.

Man was so mad, he took Snake and with his strength, stretched Snake out so his legs folded into his bod and his smooth skin turned into scales. That’s how the Snake got stretched out.


WHY THERE ARE CLOUDS IN THE SKY

One warm, sunny day, the animals in the forest were tired of sunshine. When they looked up in the sky, there was a blue sky and brilliant bright sun. One strong animal called the Lion gave an announcement: “I will travel to the ancient Arctic and bring shade to our forest!” He left that afternoon.

Five long days later, Lion was in a cold pace. The ground was covered in white … powder? Suddenly he had an idea. Lion took handfuls of the white powder and hurled it with his mighty strength into the sky. Lion took more to bring home.

Once Lion got to the forest, he threw thousands of white powder into the sky to create what is now called Clouds. (That is also why Lion represents the King of the Jungle.)




Friday, June 15, 2018

Heraclitean



Alles Glück auf Erden,
Freunde, gibt der Kampf!
Ja, um Freund zu warden,
Braucht es Pulverdampf!
Eins in Drein sind Freunde:
Brüder vor der Not,
Gleiche vor dem Feinde,
Freie  vor dem Tod!

– “Heraclitean,” poem #41 from the prologue to Nietzsche’s Joyful Science, c. 1882


Only fighting yields
Happiness on earth,
And on battlefields
Friendship has its birth.
One in three are friends:
Brothers in distress,
Equals, facing foes,
Free – when facing death!

– “Heraclitean,” English translation of Nietzsche’s poem by Walter Kaufmann


I am no expert on poetry, nor the philosophy of Nietzsche, except of the armchair Monday-morning quarterback sort. But I like this poem when I think about it on a more abstract level, not the obvious and literal comrade-in-arms in the trenches facing bayonets. It applies to any man facing any challenge, and that, along with what I understand of the German’s thought, appeals immensely to me.