When a Book Transforms and Becomes a New Creation
This week the Weekly Writing Challenge at Wordpress was called A Few of My Favorite Things, and while I enjoyed reading everyone's interpretation of this post, I found this one quite difficult to put into words, especially since I don't collect anything. The challenge was this:
tell us about your most meaningful possession... let us know about the heirloom item, what’s important are the memories and people that these objects symbolize, not what they’re actually used for. Transport us into the past by telling us about your favorite “thing.” What is it? What does it look like? What memories of people or things or events does it conjure?
My problem is I purposely don't college anything, at all, and the fact that Wordpress specified my computer/device didn't count, I had to nix my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook, which I hate to say are very high on my list. It is a point of my existence to follow the concept of laying treasures for yourself up in Heaven, where moth do not destroy and thieves do not come in and steal. I started thinking about it in terms of what would I grab if there was a fire in my house and I only had time to take two things. These may seem cliché, but the two physical items that mean the most to me are a personal favorite book, my Bible, and my Moleskine journals, and a Diet Coke.
Both of these items have a grand history of being passed down from generation to generation. Not necessarily in my family, or my wife's family, but Bibles have been heirlooms to survive the centuries, and so have journals going all the way back to Saint Augustine in Confessions. The combination of these two items makes a reader into a writer, one feeding off the other.
How a Book Transforms and Becomes a New Creation
I think it could very well be impossible to describe what this particular book has meant to me, and it is one of my most favorite physical "things" I own. One of the most interesting explanations of how we cleave to our very personal copy of God's word comes to me from John Steinbeck in East of Eden when he said, "In that one book she had her history and her poetry, her knowledge of peoples and things, her ethics, her morals, and her salvation. She never studied the Bible or inspected it; she just read it. The many places where it seems to refute itself did not confuse her in the least. And finally she came to a point where she knew it so well that she went right on reading it without listening."
There is a point at which a book transforms into more than ink and paper, more than just something that was created by a Johannes Gutenberg protégé. Once a reader makes an investment of time and mental energy there is a point at which the book becomes a new creation, something that becomes a combination of both author and reader.
The transformation isn't something that takes place at the time of purchase, or after the first completed reading. It's a slow, gradual process. Something that takes place over an extended period of time as the reader devours each word, and ultimately comes to acknowledge the true meaning the author intended to communicate. It's at this point the book becomes alive with life, and subsequently changes the life of the reader from that point on.
This physical "thing" is something that has transformed me, and is one of my most prized possessions, but like so many possessions we cherish, it's not the physical object that has meaning, but what it represents. We can even literally throw the Bible in the trash if it (1) becomes the ultimate object of our affection, or (2) sits on the shelf closed to our mind.
The Thick Cotton Pages of a Moleskine Journal
The other, slightly less poetic item I like, are my Moleskine journals (and of course a cold Diet Coke). The Moleskine philosophy has a rich history of famous writers and artists like Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway (ok, well maybe that's not totally correct, but it's great marketing). For some reason their reinvigoration of this brand in 1997 spawned a great desire to create and write on paper when the rest of the world went digital.
You can find some incredible examples of Moleskine creativity on Flickr and elsewhere on the Internet, of people who are far more creative than I am when it comes to transforming a Moleskine journal into a work of art.
This transformation process I described in the section above is completely reversed now when you first crack open the clean pages of a Moleskine journal. The new owner is immediately presented with unlimited possibilities in empty pages, pages which will be created by the experiences of life. You are now the author instead of the reader, and the blank pages become testimonies of the hours and days you spend in the process of life.
As the years have gone by since I started writing in these journals I can now look back at days I have long forgotten, details I would never have been able to remember, and people who have been called home. These pages have become markers in time for me, something I can go back and read with wonder even though I lived through the days myself.
So there you have it. Two physical objects or things that mean something to me personally, and although I hope to some day pass these on to someone else, their meaning is truly symbolic only.
[On a side note, I'm aware these "challenge" posts from Wordpress (they do a photo and writing challenge post each week over on Daily Post Blog) are basically pointless when it comes to my normal content, but I have found they serve their purpose... to challenge... to open up the mind and cause one to think, and that is a good thing. In my years in seminary since 2009, each week I found myself writing these seemingly "pointless" posts, called Discussion Board posts. Even though I might have known the material, I always learned something else by forcing myself to complete the task. So that's why I continue to post on these DP topics, just in case you were wondering.]