I have spent several years giving away books. When I retired as a professor, I had so little room for books at home I gave away 75% of my books. As I have lived in the smaller space of my home office, I have, on several occasions given away more books. This has not been easy.
It is painful because books are more than paper and print. Words are like friends who impact and sometimes change our lives. They are the ideas of people who have taken hours and days, months and years organizing thought about life and death. They are stories of the heart and insights of the soul. They are filled with words that, woven like threads of grace, become woven into the story and soul of the reader.
So, when I give away books, I give away my visible connection with the souls who have poured themselves out self-giving sacrifice for me. They gave the time and the spirit that life had given them and used their life to inform, entertain, inspire and enrich my life. Having them on shelves around my office reminds me of the gifts that others give freely to each other.
And, being wrapped in the wall paper of books also reminds me that I am not alone in my struggle to live well. To be human is to live life. To live life is to try to make sense of what happens in life. To be religious humans is to be interested in what life means. My books were attempts to comprehend the incomprehensible, to name the mystery, to appreciate the complexity, to clarify the confusing.
So, I am reducing number of books around me. And as I do, I sit in awe of the incredible human capacity to live, to seek, to share and to joy in the love of that life.