Sunday, December 18, 2011

The books on your shelf

Recently we were given the opportunity to accept a pretty hefty increase to our rent or consider finding cheaper accommodation. Since we for about the past 13 years we've been paying about the cheapest rent in Darwin, we realized that finding anything suitably cheep would be far too difficult. We'd been holding our breath and crossing our fingers, hoping that our rent wouldn't go up for a couple of years as we watched house prices sky-rocketed in our area. But we knew crunch time was bound to come!

About 6 weeks ago the landlord contacted me and hit me with some news, which we'd been expecting but it still sent us into a brief state of shock, for a short time we were afraid we'd have no choice but to move out. We went through a little fear for our future security but when the various stages of grief had passed we were ready for the worst case scenario. After all this place does not belong to us, (nowhere really can) but we've been here for many years and call it home. We thought about the prospects of having to move all our stuff out and realized that in 13 years we had accumulated a whole lot of stuff. It's time we considered, what we would do if we had to leave? Where would we go, what would we bring?

As it happened we came to an agreement with our very generous landlord that we could just afford. Thankfully we can stay. Now we don't have to move out but there are renovations planned and we have to clear all our stuff out of the living area. It dawned on us that we have a lot of stuff to move! Amongst all our gear are two book cases full of most of what we have read over the past 13 years and a bunch of stuff I may never read! I'm a slow reader but in 13 years even I can accumulate a lot of books. Why do I think I need to keep them?

One big problem for me is the so-called acquisition of knowledge! I want to know stuff, I want to learn about the world, people and things, there is information in books. Most of the books can be dispensed with once I have read them... but for some reason I have kept them.

Lately I've managed to take some time to re-assess my priorities and consider how I have been approaching the business of life. What is my purpose etc... What am I clinging to? What do I really need? I know that I don't need many possessions but constantly find myself hording stuff. Building up a stock pile that could come in handy... but when? Bike parts, computer bits and pieces, and books mostly. I admit my life is cluttered with stuff. I remember a line from a Redgum song 'Where Ya Gonna Run To "...And the books on your shelf are a measure of all that you've earned..." Well I always thought the last word of that lyric was 'learned' but in the end both words add up to the same thing. Are my books only a manifestation of my own attachment to stuff, status, achievement? If I have learned something surely I can move on to the next lesson, why do I need to cling to the vessel? Am I ever going to read a novel a second time? It takes me so long to read them once! Do I keep these books as resources or trophies?

I dumped a bag full of books on Saturday... It's a start but I'm not ready to part with most of them. Maybe one day.


Theresa said...

That's what I love about the combination of the library, and the website It lets me accumulate knowledge without accumulating stuff, but the website at least lets me keep a record that I have some of that knowledge, even if I don't have bulding bookshelves as a result.

David J said...

Yes I am quite ambivalent about keeping books. When I worked for a library we tossed out so many books due to space constraints and the fact that everything, particularly journals, is going online. But I'm in a bit of a conundrum. I don't want to waste paper or space but I know that when the lights go out we'll be clambering for information and the internet will be useless! LOL... but I suppose if that happened most things would be useless.
I'll check out goodreads just in case I decide to release more books.