October 3rd, 2009

Raging Waters

My task tonight was to put all the books back on the shelves that were moved for the latest round of house painting. I was careful to box them up in an organized way, so that unpacking would be as easy as possible. But I'm finding it hard to muster the energy for the job. Or courage. At this point, I'm not so sure that the distinction between those two concepts matters.

You see, every time I pick up a book I haven't looked through in years, I run the risk of getting swept away in the white water let loose when it became temporarily unbound. Perhaps it's silly to act as though inner and outer life mirror each other. Or maybe my malady inheres in lacking what it takes to police the boundary between those two realms with sufficient force. What I do know is that the empty white shelves to which I've turned my back to write this are a powerful reminder of how easily the order we impose in the world can turn into the infinite possibilities of freedom, a freedom that stimulates me even as it summons my deepest fears.

While I had vowed to put the books back exactly where they were before the room was dismantled, I know that the impulse to do something new might be too strong to ignore. And even if I manage to keep that promise to myself, more or less, I will still face the painful moment of deciding, as I take each book in my hand, whether to break with the past. Does it even make sense to rebuild a dam that has been breached? They tried it in Johnstown, with disastrous consequences. Sometimes one really does have to go with the flow.