The Wisdom of Books

When I was a young child my most precious possessions were my books. I kept them in a tea chest, and took great joy from unpacking them, rediscovering them, holding them, and connecting with what each of them meant to me. They were each a key either to the person who gave them to me, the memory of reading them with someone special, or for what they spoke to me at that time in my life.

I recall as a teenager, I had one book in particular that I read over and over again called “Life is what you make it”. It was not one of my prized “classics” but a rather ordinary story of a girl who felt she had everything life had to offer, went through a major trauma and lost the lot, and then grew and developed resilience to overcome this and become a much better person. I would open this book regularly and read it cover to cover without stopping, and revelling in each emotion that featured in her life as it progressed. This story spoke to me in such a way that I find difficult to really understand looking back. I suspect that if I read it now, this would no longer be the case. I did try to find it in my collection some decades ago, but it must have been discarded as no longer necessary during one of the moves during my life.

About ten years ago I attended a workshop presented by a visiting yogi from Europe. I recall during one of his talks he spoke about the different types of books, and that most should be burned! I was shocked by this notion as books have continued to hold such an important place in my entire life. But I think I now understand what he meant.

There are many stories that we come across, read and put to one side. We might for a while ponder and even discuss what the story means for us and those around us. But after this, they sit on our bookshelves and wait.

There are other books like my teenage manuel “Life is what you make it!” that offer a special message to us at a time in our life, that provides a type of scaffolding for us to make meaning of the world around us or the world inside us. For as long as this message is necessary to us, these books are very important in our lives and deserve a special place  for that time.

There are still other books that we dip into over and over again, come back to at different times in our lives, that provide a wisdom to feed our hungry souls! Finding these books at the bottom of the pile on our bedside table, or hiding in our bookcases, makes the soul sing, and provides immediate nourishment for our empty heart-space! An inspiring text, a book of poetry, a “bible” that has been overlooked and overwhelmed by the other types of books that have joined the clan. These are the books that the yogi was suggesting should be kept close to the heart, and the others burned! The others are attachments and distractions that keep us from having our “bibles” readily available to be the focus of what we need spiritually, and to become the best that we can be!

I still have a very sentimental attachment to many of my books, and still pine sometimes over the loss of “Life is what you make it”. If I had it still I would read it, to unlock some of what I experienced as a teenager, to be grateful for my journey since then, and where I am at now. I hope that the balance in my bookcase has changed significantly over the years, with the latter type of book prevailing, and that there would always be room for wisdom and inspiration! I think I still have a way to go to achieve detachment from all material goods!

More resources