It demanded seventy packing boxes. Each box contained twenty to thirty of the little darlings. Nearly two-thousand friends and acquaintances gathered over the years. They all agreed to follow me from California (where we had resided in blissful contentment) to Texas, where they would be at risk for deadly mold. They did it for me. They were my books.
As a pastor of a church that was nowhere near a decent library, I had to collect my own. Over the years of ministry, I started collecting the books I would need to avoid being noticeably stupid. I was told by a wise man at the start of my ministry, “Robert, if you don’t have any brains, steal them from someone who does.” That has been my life verse! Books led me to a life of crime in which I stole the brains of others and thereby appeared smart. I was never caught!
My library contains books on philosophy, theology, literature, languages, history, and commentaries on the Bible. I kept the philosophy books off by themselves for they tended to confuse the other books.
Those were not the only books joining me on this new adventure to Bible Belt Land. I was taking an android tablet with Kindle and Nook apps along with another three- or four-hundred books of the electron variety. I realize they are not actual books; more like books in ninja mode. I started this new digital library when my eyesight started to fail. Ebooks are not quite the same as a real book; I love the tactile feel and the paper cuts of the real books. The best you can hope for with an ebook is a low-voltage electric shock—not quite the same.
But, for all the changing technology, books are still a marvelous adventure into the world of others. Because of books, I am on a first-name basis with Plato, Nietzsche, G. K. Chesterton, Cicero, C. S. Lewis, Dante, Milton, and a host of others in my Inklings group.
Thinking of my library, my greatest fear for our culture is not that we are taken over by another culture or that we all decide to become cultural pond scum; my greatest fear is that I might be the last person to read Dante’s La Commedia (a trip to heaven and hell by a great tour guide), Milton’s Paradise Lost (would you like to know who built the great city Pandamonium?) or the marvelous stories of the Arthurian legend (the birthplace of all of our knights and maidens stories).