Attention: Book lovers this post is full of spoilers. But at the end of the post, I offer some creative distinctions that redeem the spoilers.
I just got rid of two-thirds of my books! It feels wonderful. I even let go of books I love, books that changed my life, books I’ve always wanted to read.
I have been accumulating books my whole life.
Books soothe me and stimulate me, relieving my massive anxieties about myself and knowledge. But they also stress me as they are so demanding of my attention, my space, and my time.
They sit on their shelves and turn into wild beasts roaring, screeching, whimpering three things at me:
- Read Me! you bought me and then ignored me.
- Finish Reading Me! you dropped me for another book.
- Read Me Again! you missed a lot the first time.
I have given books too much power. I am reclaiming my space, my time, my knowledge and my creativity. I am changing my relationship to books.
So I culled my seductive, demanding library. With each book I asked my self the appropriate question and answered with my grownup, (almost)confident truth:
Will I ever read this book?
Will I ever finish this book?
Will I ever read this book again?
Did the book have a place in my present or my future?
Through the Lenten Lens…
Since it is the soul’s season to work with the three great temptations, I have looked at my relationship to books throught the Lenten lens. Books tempt me at the core of my anxious self in the soul’s realms of knowledge and contribution. I look to books to provide me with knowledge and direction – and the devil, wanting to keep me from my own inner knowledge and direction, jumps in and takes advantage of my anxieties.
Turning stones to bread
Books promise that all I need to do is read their content and my hungry intellect will be fed true knowledge. How many books are stones that I want the act of reading to turn into bread?
Leaping off the pinacle to be lifted up by the angels before touching stones.
Books ask me to prove my intelligence by leaping into their words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters and then rise above them with winged cleverness before questioning their meaning.
Be given dominion over all you see in a moment, if you bow down to Satan
Books offer me glorious dominion over vast kingdoms of knowledge if I bow down to them with idolatry.
Yes, my Lenten metaphors are dramatic and clever, but they do carry a lot of truth.
My anxiety about not knowing and my aroused desire for the ultimate knowing make book temptation an erotic seduction. Add to that my personal library vanity being fed by all my intellectual and spiritually developed friends telling me what an amazing, impressive library I own.
So my books have created a false and empty inner feeling of having enough, a trust in some rescuing magical intervention to prove my favor with God, and a selfish attachment to frozen moments of power and authority over the world and others.
Their presence as physical objects surrounding my home created an outer appearance that more often veiled, rather than revealed, the real me.
And then the soothing when I need to focus on my writing – the blog posts like this, the webpages that describe my work, the handouts for all the courses I teach, and the small books on the big topics I need to write. Lot’s of stress here and to calm myself down – instead of writing and making my contribution, I will seek the bliss in the wilderness of reading.
This post is my personal demonstration of the effectiveness of my Inner Lent program. I walk my talk. My book addictions, my book fantasies, and my book prejudices have been seen for the demonic temptations they are.
Books are not evil! But all the addictions, fantasies and prejudices I have attached to them are! Evil distorts relationships makes them unfulfilling, magical, rigid, instead of nourishing, real, and living.
I will still read books but I will read them from a freer, more discerning, more confident, more real relationship. The temptations will be echoes from the past, calling out to me with seduction but fading in their power. The Lenten lens lets me pierce the veils of my anxieties and free myself from temptations that take me away from my incorruptible incarnating “I am.”
Beyond books – into other wildernesses
Work, Love, Parenting, Creativity, Money, Personal Appearance are some of our solitary life landscapes where we find temptations eager to distort our truth, beauty and goodness. Ask your self these three questions:
- Am I attempting to turn stones to bread?
- Am I relying on magical/angelic intervention to “save” me from the reality of life?
- Am I controlling my life with old rigid beliefs, identities, behaviors, judgments?
Is your sense of self is dependent on something outside yourself? Anytime you can face these three temptations and realize you do not live on bread alone, you do not need to prove your selfhood by some magical fulfillment, nor do you want kingdoms to bow to your opinions, you create within yourself a moral gesture, a movement toward real freedom and real love. With attention to your inner development, you can recognize your temptations and get them behind you.
If you would like to go deeper into your relationship to the temptations, find your weaknesses, build your strengths, do sign up for Inner Lent.