One of the saddest historical events ever, outside those that resulted in significant loss of life, was the destruction of the Great library of Alexandria (see here and here), which housed so much of the wisdom of the Ancient world. So much of the wisdom of the ancients has now been lost forever, and this makes me sad. I thought about this when last week, we had a major sort out of books, magazines (including my stack of Time magazine going back over thirty years) and papers going back to from my school days, through college and in my workplace, in the interest of decluttering the house. I am a hoarder by nature, loathe to throw anything I regard as mildly significant away, and all this paper material has occupied a considerable amount of space in my house. Since much of it I have not visited for a long time, it seemed reasonable (according to my wife) to have a major sort out, and take what I don’t need to the dump. For the sake of family peace, I reluctantly agreed.
Need or not need is an emotive question and according to who you ask (me or my wife) you will get different answers as to where to draw the line. But draw the line we did and with great sadness some of my treasures that have accumulated over sixty years have gone – forever. Mercifully, such is the recycling agenda now in operation, some of the books will find homes, but most of the papers will, I should imagine, be made into pulp and reused in that way, and all the wisdom that was there in paper form will have gone, although I will continue to pass of what wisdom I can to those who follow after me. But needs must, I did what I did, and in the sifting stumbled across all sorts of stuff, a lot of which I had almost forgotten about, some giving rise to feelings of nostalgia, and a lot of which was dumped as I came to a view it is unlikely I would have returned to what I did throw. While there were many gems among what I did throw, I had to concede that those who come after me would unlikely be interested, and this was the time for me to move on.
But books are important imho because they contain ideas and information that is often significant, and what the authors have taken often considerable effort to produce is of value. Even with what I did salvage there is enough there to be a full time occupation until my dying day, and I suspect if I am honest I will not return to a lot of it. While reading habits change, given people now read a lot less and what they do read is more lightweight and increasingly these days in electronic form as well as other media, reading does matter. I for one will continue to be an avid reader until my dying day or when I do become dolally. I will continue to encourage others to read good books and esteem those who do just that.