In the past few years, I’ve noticed I had been considering books a burden of promises.
Though books by themselves don’t make any promises, I have been using them as a sort of lifeline to the future: that I’ll read that book, and some magic will happen, like I’ll know some important bit of information that will make all the difference. Or I realize some secret path. Or I’ll be able to offer some new way for my family to interact, or for my neighborhood to become more vibrant, or my experience of nature to be more intimate, or my understanding of history or human society will become profound and I’ll be able to …
Book sellers, authors, and book lovers encourage the mystery and promise of a book, but I’m now finding the majority of the books in my possession feel like items in a to-do list that are always in the low priority group.
After realizing I was doing this, I started to watch for other ways to relate to books. I often encounter situations for which there are not handy words – or even that there might not be words for. I’ve read enough Heidegger to have tainted my thoughts as to how new language might emerge. Recently I read an article that mentioned the use of a certain theoretical framework, and they called out that framework as something that allowed conversation on a topic.
Once employed, the framework provided by the book “gives us a grammar to…” talk about topic X. I like that.
So, now I find I’m starting to think of books a bit more like a toolset, or vocabulary framework, to employ when thinking about or discussing a problem.
Do I need that tool on the shelf there? If not, should it move aside to make space for tools I do need?
The shift from “unfulfilled promise” to “framework tool” is a great relief.