Friday, June 17, 2005

Book Talk

Today I'm using this meme I read in Mimi's blog, because it's a topic near and dear to my heart.

1. Total Number of Books I've Owned:

This is not something I could even ballpark--it's gotta be in excess of 5,000, but numbers become hard for me to grasp once they get that large. Let's just say this: bookshelves have always been my most crucial piece of furniture, bookstores are my very favorite places on earth, and I have been cursed by moving men in four states because of my excessive number of very heavy boxes of books.

2. Last Book I Bought:

I bought several books for a flight three weeks ago: Errant Knight by R. Garcia y Robertson, and two humor collections by Laurie Notaro. I think those were the last, but I buy books like I buy bread and milk, so I may be forgetting something.

3. Last Book I Read:

The last book I read was White Rose, which is the third in the series begun with Errant Knight. They're time travel fantasy books with a terrific premise--third-millennium Hollywood producer ends up in the middle of the War of the Roses--but the plot development, characterization and narrative left a lot to be desired.

4. Five Books That Mean A Lot To Me:

A. the Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The detail and the history of these books is just amazing, but it's the way the characters live their lives that has always inspired me.
B. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. This is a book with its roots deep in my psyche, because I spent the first five years of my life living near Hannibal, and the Mississippi River loomed very large in my life and imagination. Plus, it's America in book form.
C. Lake Wobegon Days. Another American classic. This was a book I always turned to when my real world seemed too harsh and I needed to go to a place that was friendlier. Between the ages of 16 and 24, I must have read LWD 100 times. For a long time I wrote just like Garrison Keillor!
D. The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler. This is the book that taught me that detail is what brings writing to life. It's a little gem.
E. The King James Bible. I grew up to the cadences of the KJV in church and in school, and it shaped my love of words and language.

5. People I Will Infect With This Meme:

Bev, will you give this one a shot? I am so curious to hear your answers!

Being known

I had the beginnings of a deep thought at work today while I was packaging die cuts. (Packaging die cuts is quite conducive to deep thought...very Zen.) My friend Donna asked me the other day why people blog:

“Why are these so hot? Like, what's in us to be so into both writing them and reading them?? Is it our strong, innate desire to be known? Are we less known in our culture today?? Do you feel more ‘known’ yourself when you peer into someone else’s thought life?”

I told her I didn’t know, but it made me start to think about why I finally decided blogging would be worthwhile for me to do. Specifically, why do I want to be known? Even more specifically—do I want to be known?

I have always been a reserved person, even as a child. Being honest with people is hard for me, showing my flaws and faults is hard for me, making myself vulnerable is very hard for me. I have always felt lonely because I never feel like people know me, and yet I am the one who is unwilling to really let people know me. It takes a long time for me to let down the barriers, and in most of my relationships, the barriers never come down completely. Worse yet, on occasions when I do push down a few stones from the wall, I almost always deeply regret it. Or I am made to regret it.

So I’ve been a little frustrated with my blogging so far—I feel like I need to be more personal and deep so that whoever reads my blog will know me better, and yet--! There are people who know me in “real life” who may end up reading this blog! How can I be real and personal in front of them?

It was that thought that really brought me up short. I can write about personal things for the relative strangers who might stumble across it, but the thought of a friend or family member actually reading what I truly feel—that appalls me. Um, yeah. Anybody have a pickax? Because I’ve got a bonafide Red Communist-type Berlin Wall around my true self, and I don’t think that’s helping me anymore in my life. If it ever did. Which it probably didn’t.

Our friends Brian and Sonja got married last spring in a very old and beautiful Episcopal church in Smithfield. During the ceremony, the priest read from 1 Corinthians 13, certainly no big surprise there. I’ve heard that chapter a thousand times in my life, and not just at weddings. But the priest had a translation that I’d never heard before. The verse was, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

Except instead of the word “know,” this particular translation used the word “understand.”

“…then shall I understand, even as I am fully understood.”

Well. It was one of those moments that just slaps you between the eyes. That little word change made all the difference. God understands me. Sure, he knows me, he’s known me before I was ever conceived, as the psalm says, that’s old news to me, but—he understands me. And he doesn’t just understand me—he fully understands me.

This seems to me to be really what we crave in life. It’s easy to know stuff. I know all kinds of stuff, from WW II history to useless movie trivia to the birthdays of everyone in my family. And I know a lot of people. I’ve encountered lots of people, and I know them, to one degree or another.

But understanding? That’s on a whole other level. The TV news channels are full of people who know stuff…but how often do you see anyone who actually understands anything? Understanding runs deeper. It’s knowing what’s underlying, what the undercurrents are, what’s underground. It’s seeing the underpinnings and what’s way down underneath. See that common word? If God understands me, if he fully understands me, then he sees everything I’ve got down under. And if the verse is true, then he gets it and he accepts it. All of it.

So maybe some of us out here are blogging to be known, and maybe some of us are blogging to be understood. Or to understand ourselves. Or maybe it’s a mixture of all of those things. I don’t know who will read this after I hit post. And I think I’m okay with that. It’s a tiny step towards knocking down a piece of wall and allowing myself to be known. And maybe even understood.