In one scene I was being led through a vacant, all white -from carpet to ceiling, studio apartment. There were high ceilings and nooks built into two walls. Apparently I was looking for a place to move. I found myself wondering if I could insert my rather tall bookshelf into one of the nooks. In each room I pondered if this broad, eight foot high piece of furniture would fit; on which wall it should sit flush against.
In another scene I was sitting at a large, oblong, dark wood table in the center of a room with brown wall paneling and squatter ceilings. To the side of this, there was a tall receptionist desk in front of a window, which allowed most of the light. Besides the few around this table, the movement out of the corner of my eye came from casually dressed students. In our dreams, we seem to know all context. This seemed to be a communal center, possibly a counselor’s office of a university. I then learned I had been excepted to *Hillsdale College; a very real conservative Christian college in Michigan. My contact was an older women in the same vein and dry delivery of our senator Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was explaining my class schedule and when my particular class-group meets in the communal dining hall to eat together. I remember disliking the fact that I would have to eat with a group on a schedule.
This seemed to amplify my anxiety about moving. I needed to be out of an expiring lease and now the decision needed to be made between moving across country into a dorm, fold up and bend my life into a curriculum and routine, a school I had no recollection of applying to; this opportunity had just been thrown in my lap; or move into a place too small for all of my stuff, especially my books. Either choice, I needed to consolidate myself.
My alarm went off.
“Anytime one ventures into new territory there is a feeling of discomfort/uneasiness. That is how you will know that you are evolving. If you were comfortable you would be in a rut and that is no place for enlightened being.”
— Debbra Lupen
“What is the true point of a bookish life? Note I write “point,” not “goal.” The bookish life can have no goal: It is all means and no end. The point, I should say, is not to become immensely knowledgeable or clever, and certainly not to become learned. Montaigne, who more than five centuries ago established the modern essay, grasped the point when he wrote, “I may be a man of fairly wide reading, but I retain nothing.” Retention of everything one reads, along with being mentally impossible, would only crowd and ultimately cramp one’s mind. “I would very much love to grasp things with a complete understanding,” Montaigne wrote, “but I cannot bring myself to pay the high cost of doing so. . . . From books all I seek is to give myself pleasure by an honorable pastime; or if I do study, I seek only that branch of learning which deals with knowing myself and which teaches me how to live and die well.” What Montaigne sought in his reading, as does anyone who has thought at all about it, is “to become more wise, not more learned or more eloquent.”
A person’s library is often a symbolic representation of his or her mind. A man who has quit expanding his personal library may have reached the point where he thinks he knows all he needs to and that what he doesn’t know can’t hurt him. He has no desire to keep growing intellectually. The man with an ever-expanding library understands the importance of remaining curious, open to new ideas and voices.
*I appreciate their online lecture series, but I am not an official student.
A chandelier in my white bedroom is an easily achievable goal. Chandeliers in every room is very Viennese.