On Books and other Worldly Possessions

I’m still a bit behind on reading posts. I’m now catching up on Raph Koster, who has recently stirred up a lot of comments lately by stating that immersion is dead (I paraphrase). I’ll ignore that for the time being, and focus on another post, where he ponders the inherent value of culture and specifically its means of presentation, with a focus on books.

To me, this has always been an interesting topic, because it seems to be one of those very fundamental opinions that people have diametrically opposed opinions about. It’s certainly a world view topic, in how it shows what is most important to you as a person, what you value as a virtue in and of itself, without any more fundamental reason to it – it is important because it is. Some people value professional success, some value riches. Others may value a perfectly-fitting suit and a trained body. And some people value the feeling of history that is inherent in a first edition book from 1901, or in an original pressing of a certain vinyl record. To those people, history is a virtue in itself. Others might just like the sensual feeling of holding a real book in their hands and turning the pages.

Yes, Raph Koster is probably quite right when he points out that there might be signalling theory involved. But it is also telling when you read the comments to his post. It is obvious how some people immediately understand the feeling of how a large collection on books, proudly presented in your living room, is both awe-inspiring and comforting, while others say they don’t get it and were glad when they could get rid of all their cruft.

I’m one of the history collectors. From my living room windows, I can see our old town hall from the 14th century, which in turn is the only building that prevents me from seeing the cathedral that’s 1200 years old. Looking at them just makes me feel happy like other people might when they look at a sports car. Turning around, I face book shelves that – while not containing anything that can rival Raph Koster’s 1901 Dumas edition – contain a collection of books that are dear to me, both for their age and for having been bought and read by me. There’s also my second-hand record collection. I was so full of joy when one day I found an original pressing of Secret Treaties by Blue Öyster Cult, my favorite album of my favorite band (though, in a strange twist, not my favorite album of all times). I don’t play these records a lot, I admittedly often prefer the convenience of (high-quality) MP3s. But when I do, it’s something I wouldn’t want to miss.

So, what does that mean? I can think of three things.

  1. Never ridicule people for their strange fetishes. People might laugh at me for collecting useless old stuff. I shouldn’t in turn laugh at people worshiping things that seem exceedingly weird to me. Let them do their thing.
  2. One commenter on Raph Koster’s post quoted a piece of advice he got: “Never sleep with anyone who doesn’t have books in their room.” I think I never broke that rule, though if it is specifically about the bedroom, I might need to recheck some locations… which might pose a problem. I’m sure I’d get some weird looks from some of the girls if I asked whether I could check out their bedroom again…
  3. Oh God Oh God I’m already dreading the next move. What with all the books and records and DVDs and other things that will need packing, moving, and unpacking. I should start saving now so I can afford professionals.

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