Friday, August 19, 2011

Books as Bread Crumbs

At the Swap Shop at our town’s recycling center (I still refer to it as “The Dump” since it’s located on the site of the now closed town landfill) you can drop off unwanted items that are too good to throw in the trash. Gus the proprietor will sort through the stuff and most of it will get set out for purchase (“repurposed” I think is the current term). While I already have way too much stuff stored in the nooks and crannies of my house, I usually stop and peruse the merchandise, especially the small stuff like books, CDs and old LPs. Why, I have three “repurposed” hardback books on my nightstand right now.

On the weekends people will drop off boxes of odds and ends, either the result of cleaning out a basement or kid’s closet, or maybe items that didn’t see at their Saturday yard sale. Sometimes when I stop by the shop to scan the latest wares I see boxes of books freshly dropped off and not yet sorted and shelved by Gus. I take note when these full cardboard boxes reflect a particular type of reading or genre. Dozens of children’s books in decent shape, a box of those expensive oversized gardening and landscaping volumes, or maybe a box full of those romance paper backs – the ones with the manly hunks on the covers doing something heroic, or romantic, or heroic-romantic.

The other day I came across a box that reflected someone’s (apparently past) spiritual quest. The books ranged the gamut from Dr. Phil and Oprah to Buddhist philosophy, to homeopathic healing, to yoga meditation, to all types of inner soul-searching techniques to Native American spiritualism. I rummaged through the entire oversized box and didn’t come across a single volume related to Christianity, not even one by some of the current avant garde Emergent Church purveyors such as Rob Bell or Brian McLaren. Had the owner of these books been burnt by traditional Christianity in the past and was seeking alternatives? Had they never really been exposed to Christian beliefs and practices, but the culture’s negativism toward Christians shut that door for them at square one? It would be interesting to know the life story behind this cardboard box of searchings. Did the searcher ultimately find any spiritual rest? I’m thinking the odds are against it judging by the bread crumb trail they left behind.

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