Friday, February 4, 2011

I Love Books

I have been spending a lot of time with the laptop lately. Trying to promote book. Writing. Doing this new blog. And then...oooh lets check Facebook, hey there's a comment, there's a message, there's an interesting article, wait I've got to post a funny status, and oh I've got to comment on this. Then, what's the Weather? Yahoo weather. What are we doing tomorrow? Did so-and-so email? Check the email. "Daddy, why do we bless throats on St. Blaise's feast day?" Hang on. Google St. Blaise--oh, that's interesting (I'll let you do it yourself).

Prayer time. Wait, the reading I'm working on is on a pdf file: clickityclickityckick. Maybe they could put a rosary decade right on the keyboard, you know, an Our Father key and ten Hail Mary keys. And while they're at it a video for each mystery.

In addition to all this, people want Kindles. Heck, I want one. An entire library that I can take wherever I go? The convenience and utility factors cannot be denied.

Fine. But after I finish this blog I am going to put this thing aside and pick up a book. The book is waiting for me, quietly, like an old friend. I just have to open it and there are the familiar pages, the same pages I saw yesterday, the same pages I touched yesterday. I can flip through the pages with my fingers.

It just stays the same. It doesn't blink. It doesn't splash ads all over the place. It has no battery. It doesn't clunck out, erase itself, or flash incomprehensible error messages. It doesn't require tech support. Its not linked to a service company hundreds of miles away, and no one on the phone is going to tell me that I can't read my book because of technical difficulties. The Book Operation Manual is simple: (1) Pick up book; (2) Open book; (3) Read.

Here's a book. Nothing special, a paperback. I read this book 16 years ago. This here thing here, this book. Open to a page. Yes, I was living in Rome when I read that page, that very page there. What was I thinking 16 years ago when I was touching this very same page that I am touching now. I was looking at a vast unknown future, holding this page; Eileen was in Texas and I never dreamed that I was going to marry her; there were no children--those irrepressible, lovable, all-consuming children simply did not exist--but there was me and this book. Rome and its beauty surrounded me and paths opened in many directions. If I had taken another, I would probably have brought this book with me.

Now I pick up another. My mother gave me this book. She read it before I did. Some books have been around for a long time.

What am I trying to say? Not something so pedestrian as "books are better than computers." I am saying simply this: I love books. I love to pick them up and put them down. I love to hold them. I love to turn pages. I love to have books on a shelf. I love that they have simplicity. I love the fact that they have a history; that they have been my companions. They are three dimensional pieces of my life's journey. And they can be passed on to others, by hand.

Computers and the internet are great tools for writers. I spend a good part of the day using them. One of the things I use them for is to write BOOKS. I have published three books, all with extensive use of computer technology. But there was always the satisfaction when the box arrived, and I opened it up, and there in my hand was the finished product.

It must have something to do with being human, something that I hope we will not lose.

Okay you have labored with me through these musings. I am going to quote something for you from a book. It is a prayer, and it takes us back to the theme of suffering:

I am tired of suffering,
therefore, make me understand
the reason and love that exist in suffering,
make me understand
the humanity that exists in suffering,
make me understand
the love toward Being that lies in suffering,
make me understand
the love toward Christ that lies in suffering,
make me understand
the love toward You,
O Mystery,
that lies in suffering.

--Luigi Giussani