Normally on Christmas Eve I post the first lines from the Gospel of John about the word becoming flesh and dwelling amongst us. The fact is that the one thing about Christianity- the Roman Catholic kind in my case- that makes it different from other great religions is that we believe that God lived as a person and died for all of us. That God understands intimately what it means to be human and that His incarnation sancifies life and the world. The idea of Incarnation or taking the flesh is essential not only to our faith as Christians but it also means something else all people are equal in the eyes of God and should be so in the eyes of people.
The idea of becoming flesh, in fact becoming real is essential as we venture more and more into a virtual world. Everything seems to be digitized and everything is being reduced to code and the next victim of this could be the bookstore.
As the owner of over 5000 books and a collector of the same the idea that I will never again get to spend a Saturday afternoon trolling the front table at Seminary Co-op in Chicago or looking through the drawers of Chapbooks at Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee or working through the stacks at Powells in Portland, Oregon is a fate worse than say the destruction of Parma, Italy with its great Hams and Cheeses. It is just a sad thing.
I am not a Luddite. I am writing a blog post right now. I love the internet and my iPod but the idea that my books as friends would not be on shelves, full of memories loved and used as they were meant to be is something that I cannot believe that bibliophiles will allow to happen. Right now I am looking at my shelves.
There is a first edition of Robert Duncan's poetry that I bought with my food money at Murphy Brookfield Books in Iowa City. A 1938 section of the Cantos of Ezra Pound that I bought in New York. In the American Tree by Ron Silliman, the Anthology that made me want to write poetry. The Memoir of Pablo Neruda... Clayton Eshelman's wonderful translations of Vallejo that made me want to be a translator and of course Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain which made me remain an angry but obedient Roman Catholic.
How would I consume all of these on my iPad again and again??
In the end for me Bookstores and Books are like the Incarnation. Books with us. Not something apart or distant but a created thing in my hands that has a history and a future. We can embrace technology but must everything be reduced to code?
Merry Christmas, God With Us, Preserve our Books and let us Continue to Have our Friends on our Shelves.