Words of Encouragement
from the Rector
In the midst of this fearsome pandemic, one of the small pleasures I’ve found in the way we live now is getting a peek into the homes and offices of people as they appear in Zoom meetings or as commentators or experts on television.  As we are all encouraged to work from home and socially distance, these small windows reveal not only our heads and torsos but also the rooms where we live and move and have our being. And in doing so, they reveal some of our most profound sensibilities.

One of the most telling elements of these are the bookcases that often appear in the backgrounds. More often than not there are bookcases on which people have put family photos, small pieces of art, plants, with a couple of books scattered here and there.  
But occasionally there are people with bookshelves that are crammed with books. These are people who not only read but think that what they read is worth holding on to. 

The sixteenth-century French lawyer John Calvin, who dabbled in theology, thought that the world could be divided between people who are predestined to salvation and people who are predestined to damnation. 

I think the world is divided between people who collect and savor books and people who put knicknacks on bookshelves. I speak as a person who has run out of bookshelf space years ago. Thinking back on my life, one of the reoccurring themes of my life has been the constant shortage of shelf space to shelve books. When looking at bookshelves, my first question is always: are these deep enough to double-shelve books. All my life, reading books has been a deep and abiding source of satisfaction, erudition and solace. The books I have purchased pile up ever higher on my bedside table.
There's something so satisfying about buying a book. It feels like you're going on an adventure. I suppose it's the old cliche about the "new book smell". 

One night I was watching someone being interviewed on television against a solid wall of books. The newscaster asked, “Have you read all those books?”

The person replied, “Oh no, my room is so messy I put this up as the background.”

When someone walks into the library of the rectory and asks, “Have you really read all of those books”; I answer, “Well, almost all the introductions and first chapters and most of the final chapters I’ve have been skimmed-ish. So sure, yes. Absolutely.

The writer Susan Sontag was once asked if she had read all the books that lined the walls of her apartment, to which she snapped back, “Of course I read all my books.”

I remember the columnist William F. Buckley once writing that when a realtor showed Buckley and his wife the house they eventually purchased in Stamford, Connecticut, he was amazed that there was only one book on the whole property. Out in the garage apartment, there was a Reader's Digest Condensed Book anthologies left by the caretaker. Growing up in houses filled with books, Buckley was dumbfounded by people who possessed no books. 

But the truth is that reading is not the same as loving books. 

When Supreme Court Justice David Souter returned to New Hampshire in retirement, he moved from his family farm house in Weare to a single-floor home outside of the state capital, Concord. Souter told a disappointed Weare neighbor that the two-story family farmhouse was not structurally sound enough to support the thousands of books he owns.

The Japanese have a word for it: tsundoku which describes the pleasure of accumulating more books than you’ll ever have time to read cover to cover. The word is a clever pun combining two Japanese words. Tsun which comes from the verb meaning ‘to pile’ and doku from ‘to read’. Online, tsundoku cartoons annotate bookshelves with guilty jottings: "books I'd look smart reading in public"; "books I bought because the covers were pretty"; "books I don't ‘get’, but hold onto in the hope that some day I will." I might add: "books bought at Hudson’s while in airports", and "books given by friends insisting, "This is so you”.

Being quarantined for a fortnight, gave me the pleasure to spend two weeks with my library. The quarantine was a chance for me to embrace my tsundoku

Books do furnish a room. But more than that, they furnish a mind and a life. Every book on my straining shelves is a trip, a prize, a friend, a consolation, a memory. We have inherited books from great-grandparents that sit on our shelves reminding us of lives that have gone before. Having shelves and shelves of books is an insight into the person who has accumulated all of them not just because of the subjects of the books on the shelves but because of their impulse to collect them. Or, as John Calvin would , put it, you’re either predestined for tsundoku or you’re not.

Andrew +
  • As we begin to relaunch our in-person liturgies and ministries, CSMSG's Words of Encouragement will move from daily installments to weekly. The clergy and staff have enjoyed sharing their hearts with the parish each day since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic and connecting with many of you through your responses. You can look for the weekly Words of Encouragement each Wednesday beginning July 1. 

  • Please register to attend this Sunday's, June 28th in-person worship services on the home page of our website. Please register by midnight on Friday.

  • The Zoom coffee hour will not take place this Sunday.

  • Be sure to download the Sunday Morning Prayer service leaflet posted on the web so that you can participate in the liturgy. We join with one voice in the Worship of the living God.  

  • Be on the look out for a phone call from Church Receptionist Becky Arthur or other staff members, as we update our Realm directory.