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Why I Unashamedly Collect Real Books.


So...I've been reading. Shocker, I know. What I've been reading is Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. Even if you haven't read it, or it's been decades since you did, everyone has at least heard of it and knows that it is set in a dystopian future in which books are banned and ones that do exist are systematically burned by "firemen." Now, I do not desire to give a full synopsis of the book, nor do I plan to give a full explanation of how Bradbury's (and Orwell's) dystopian future is rapidly becoming a dystopian present. What I do want to express is why I consider it important to collect books...real books. Real, not only in the sense of quality, but in the sense of physicality.


Bradbury's character "Faber" gives us some insight into the importance of books in a society that devalues them. For starters, they have real quality to them. In a society that wants, "only wax moon faces, poreless, hairless, expressionless," books plow deeper furrows in the human mind and heart. Think about our own culture for a moment; we want everything in bite-sized, instantaneous tidbits. We want to have our information fed to us by ninety second Tik-Tok videos, never scratching beneath a surface level understanding of a subject. We think we are Jacks-of-all-trades, and we are certainly masters of none. Surely there is more to be known about any given subject that what a meme on Facebook can convey. Yet, that is all our scroll-drunk minds can digest. Again Faber is insightful,


"If you're not driving a hundred miles an hour, at a clip where you can't think of anything else but the danger, then you're playing some game of sitting in some room where you can't argue with the four-wall televisor. Why? The televisor is 'real.' It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions you mind hasn't had time to protest..."


Books, at least the ones that last, have been written by people who think about things. We may not agree with them, and they may be wrong, but someone took the time to think about what was written down and published. As a result, when we read books we are forced to think about things as well. Hopefully, in a more contemplative way than flicking our thumb to see the next "reel."


All of the things above could be applied to hard-copy books or ebooks equally. Allegedly, the content of an ebook version of Fahrenheit 451 is the same the paper copy sitting next to me now. However, if social media has taught us anything it is that content can be deleted, redacted, cancelled, and massaged at the behest of those in control of the servers.


I can already hear the cries of, "Conspiracy theorist" wafting through the ones and zeros of the matrix, but you know it is true. Just scroll down your newsfeed long enough you'll find a post that has been removed because it violates "community guidelines." Emails can easily be deleted and electronic data can be edited with ease. One may remember that in Orwell's 1984 the protagonist's job was to redact articles in order to reflect "newspeak." Oh what Orwell would think about the technology we have now!


My point is, like gold is more attractive than crypto-currency, so real books are more attractive than ebooks to me. Sure, they may be bulky and more difficult to search when I'm looking for something specific, but they simply feel more - real. Though it may be blasphemy to some, in a real book I can dog-ear a page, or run a highlighter over a specific passage. I can make notes in the margin, notes that I can come back to twenty years later and either laugh at or be amazed at. Nevermind the intoxicating scent of a new book! You don't get that on Kindle. At least with hard copy books you are forced go to the trouble of burning them instead of simply deleting them, when you feel the need to get rid of them. As more and more books are cancelled the ones we are able to retain are going to become more and more valuable, not in a monetary sense, but in the sense that they contain the thoughts of those who have gone before us. Sometimes those thoughts are terrible, but sometimes they are wells of wisdom that we cannot afford to cut ourselves off from.


Finally, let us not forget that God himself chose to record his will, his revelation to humanity, in the written word. That written word has as its supreme focus the Word - Jesus Christ - his only begotten Son, the second person of the Trinity. It is that central theme and message that gives the Bible its significance. It is a valuable book because the content is valuable and behind it lies a very real truth that is rooted in the truth, the way, and the life.


May we all collect real books, not just so we have an impressive library to leave our friends and family member awestruck at our vast knowledge. No, let us collect real books because of what they contain, and may we value old and antiquated things, like them, as treasure troves of truth, goodness, and beauty.


Soli Deo Gloria,

Mr. Christian





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