Forgetfulness is my greatest enemy, by far. Although I often question my own existence, I am certain that I was thrown into this world for a clear purpose. So strong is this sense of mission, that I sometimes forget that I am also supposed to enjoy those nights when I lie immobile between the pages. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying one’s existence, wouldn’t you say?
I am not ignorant of the ways of the world, either. I have heard the rumours that those hideous newcomers called ‘e-books’ might render my job useless and my existence therefore precarious. I’ve heard about the enthusiasm among certain readers – even some who used to be mine – about the convenience these gadgets supposedly bring to the age-old act of reading. I overheard readers discuss these matters. They seem to think that electronic books are the natural inheritors of my world. That paperless reading is what the automobile was to the horse-drawn carriage. They can’t be more wrong. A byte can read a byte, but a human reader should read a similarly-embodied book. Bodies matter. Although you’re not a bookmark, surely you understand what this means. How can a book without covers be really enjoyed? Or a paperless page?
[last part to follow]
There are paperless bookmarks (as with kindle), but sticking to the theme of incarnation, a body-less bookmark, like a paperless page seems to transport the personable, the human touch of flesh to paper from an engagement with what it actually feels like to be physically/emotionally human, to a (cyber)space (fake space) where personal engagement gets lost in a kind of macrocosmic Net now called the global village. It reminds me of Yeats’ Rosa Alchemica (in a different sense), an excerpt of which reads:
“I had only to go to my bookshelf, where every book was bound in leather, stamped with intricate ornament, and of a carefully chosen colour: Shakespeare in the orange of the glory of the world, Dante in the dull red of his anger, Milton in the blue grey of his formal calm; and I could experience what I would of human passions without their bitterness and without satiety. I had gathered about me all gods because I believed in none, and experienced every pleasure because I gave myself to none, but held myself apart, individual, indissoluble, a mirror of polished steel…and for a moment I thought as I had thought in so many other moments, that it was possible to rob life of every bitterness except the bitterness of death; and then a thought which had followed this thought, time after time, filled me with a passionate sorrow.”
Here the artist (like Faust) has experienced all that a student/reader of books can experience, seemingly attempting to objectively categorize human passions. He yearns to feel without the pain of feeling. But his hopes for feeling-less feelings or body-less desire leads only to what Milton might call a “darkness visible,” a kind of oblivion. He is therefore tempted by others to escape the pain for an alchemic beauty. Disenchanted, he returns to society, more engaged with his own humanity, its shortcomings, and that of others than ever before.