“I always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.” – Jorge Louis Borges
Often I get mired in the muck of all that I’ve lost. As I tend to a body that is deteriorating, I wonder why life is so hard. Add to the life changes that come with a degenerative disease, I feel all the troubles of friends, of strangers and the world, and I find myself in a dark powerless place. I find myself blinded to what is rich about my life.
Yesterday was Veterans Day, and I thought a lot about how terrible war is, how so many Veterans never recover from their service, how people and lands are lost for what seems to be no good reason. I felt the beast of depression nibbling away at me.
Last night I didn’t sleep well, but I woke with a sense of fear that I wasn’t seeing straight. Am I blind to paradise? What is really all around me? What is truly happening in the part of my life that I can touch? I am surrounded by friends and family who love me, I have ways of expressing myself, I have a collection of books. And I have the time to read them, too.
Yesterday, I felt tired, so I lay down with a book and read my way into another world. If I wanted, now, I could, on this earth, do nothing but read.
I got a pile of new books for my birthday. I get books from the library. Books are all around me – novels, children’s and illustrated book, pop-ups, books on art, geography, history, natural science. I even have a book on assholes (Assholes: a Theory, by Aaron James.)
I follow a blog called The Book Keeper Book Shop, written by an independent book store owner in Strathalbyn, SA. She writes little stories about her customers and books and life. Recently she quoted Lebanese writer Nassim Nicholas Talib: “A library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there.” The anti-library, he calls it, filled with unread books. The number of unread books grow as we realize how much we don’t know. “Let us call this an anti-scholar – some one who focuses on the unread book and makes and attempt not to treat his knowledge as a treasure, or even, a possession, or even a self esteem enhancement device.” (from The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable)
I have so many unread books here at home and at the library. I have often felt bad about the unread ones. I’ve also felt guilty reading instead of doing something more productive.
But if I listen to Borges, if I really hear him, I have been given a slice of paradise here on this strange and fractured planet. And I keep turning my back to it, chasing after some sort of normal life.
Because I live in a country that tries, in its own fragmented way, to take care of those of us who have a major disability, I get to move at my own pace. At that turtle speed, I get to paint, I get to read. I get to shed this tight skin of independence, and learn the more sustainable and softness of interdependence. I live in a world where many of the people are conspiring to make me happy.
I don’t always remember that, especially when faced with another health challenge, but love is all around me. And as artist Frankd Robinson says, “Love Never Fails.” I have friends to help me, friends to cry with me. Friends who give me books I would never have found on my own.
Arms wrap around me. Ideas bloom inside me. Books wait patiently for me to lay down my burdens and pick them up, to leave this body and journey into another world.
In spite of all the traps of our planet, I have found a library of books, friends, doctors. I have seen paradise, like a sliver of sunlight in a dark room.
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