Bob calls me an idolater of books. He says my library is my shrine to knowledge. I deny the accusation, but it hits closer to home than I like. When I first got married, I learned many things about my new bride. One of these was her tendency to buy lots of something in the grocery store just because it is on sale. For example, it was not long after our happy nuptial that our very small apartment pantry was stocked with ten or so boxes of cake mix. I like cake–especially when Megan is doing the baking–but I felt the need to bemoan our family’s susceptibility to Betty Crocker’s marketing ploy. I like cake, but we just don’t eat that much of it. When it comes to Cokesbury’s annual 90% off sale or boosting my order up to $25 so I can get the free shipping, however, I sing a different tune. I read books, one might say, but I don’t read that many of them.
There is a part of me that laments the burning of the library at Alexandria as much as any catastrophe in history. Not because I could ever get around to reading all those books, but because I think books should be compiled and preserved regardless of whether I read them. Some of my friends do not buy expensive reference works in preference for books that they will read completely or a least limit reference purchases to ones that will undoubtedly be in continual use. I figure most anything I purchase will get use by virtue of my future in teaching, be it in the mission field where the HUGSR library is not at my disposal or otherwise. Beyond this rational, I feel that I am doing biblical studies a favor every time I buy a reference work. Would we have Vaticanus or Sinaiticus if some blessed scribe had not thought it wise to put one more copy in circulation? Well, my purchases may not be of comparable import, but I am putting one more copy of a worthwhile volume in circulation with every purchase.
I also do this with other literature, thought not nearly as much. For instance, I have a lovely set of Barnes & Noble Classics sitting on a shelf. I bought them (and was gifted them) because they were on sale, and I aspired to read them some day. Despite my rationalizations, C. S. Lewis’ sad example in The Great Divorce of the man who so loved literature that he collected all the classics but somewhere along the way stopped reading them haunts me at times. Thus, I made it my goal to read one of the Barnes & Noble beauties over Christmas break. How is Bram Stoker’s Dracula for Christmas cheer? It was a pretty fast read, though Van Helsing-speak is curious at times. I enjoyed it greatly but had the unfortunate experience of having seen the movie first. I will quote here a passage that astounded me. Keep in mind that Dracula was published in 1897. The Modern worldview is in full force. Here, Van Helsing is trying to open John Seward’s mind to the possibility that Lucy’s death was the result of a “supernatural” cause, namely a vampire.
You are a clever man, friend John; you reason well, and your wit is bold; but you are too prejudiced. You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Do you not think that there are things which you cannot understand, and yet which are; that some people see things others cannot? But there are things old and new which must not be contemplate by men’s eyes, because they know–or think they know–some things which other men have told them. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain.