Books are amazing. They’re so diverse, so intriguing, so satisfying. I live with about 40,000 of them in this house, and yet, there are so many more to look at. We went to a Friends of the Library Book Sale in West Berlin today. Tables and tables full of boxes of books lined the room. Every time I think I might be getting sick of looking at books, a cover catches my eye. A picture or a title throws a thought against my consciousness, and I’m hooked again. I can’t resist a book on natural history or a cookbook on chocolate or a biographical picture book on Roberto Benigni. The world is a fascinating place. So, after the book sale, where did we go? To a bookstore… to meet with the Socrates Cafe group. Steve has been talking about them since we first started dating, but he hasn’t gone to a meeting for about a year. They were very glad to see him again. I was introduced to the group of 2 women and 7 men as the only newbie. We put 3 questions up on the dry erase board and voted for our favorite. “Is life meaningless?” was the winner. Is life meaningless? We’re surrounded by books, words and pictures about life. If life is meaningless, we’re certainly doing our damnedest to create meaning to put in it. Ah, but is there a capital M – Meaning as in a meaning that was put into life by something or someone bigger and other than us? The discussion goes on. The group dynamic plays out on the stage. An hour and a half goes by, and then the leading couple asks us out to dinner. A charming pair of psychologists make great dinner companions, in my book (pun intended). I had a thoroughly enjoyable day. It felt great to meet with and talk to new people. I feel like I’ve brought a hundred new friends home with me as well. I feel alive and engaged! Life has meaning and death has meaning; everything has meaning and everything is valuable! I feel like Walt Whitman in one of his litanies of affirmation. If you spent an hour browsing through a library or a bookstore, how would you feel? Expanded? Sensitized, like tiny hairs of consciousness were prickled on your mind?
Before the meeting, we walked on the shore of Lake Michigan looking past the breakers where spinnakers danced on the horizon. Gusts of wind and sunshine exhilarated our senses. I wish I had brought my camera. I like to try to hold on to the bedazzlement of life. I suppose that books do the same thing, symbolically trying to capture something of wonder. From the snatches that I read this morning, here is a dazzling quote:
“I wish I could translate the hints about the dead young men and women, And the hints about old men and mothers, and the offspring taken soon out of the laps. What do you think has become of the young and old men? And what do you think has become of the women and children? They are alive and well somewhere. The smallest sprout shows there is really no death, And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the end to arrest it, And ceas’d the moment life appear’d.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses, And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.” Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” from Leaves of Grass