That was the thought that went through my mind as I exited Border's bookstore today, hands empty, after browsing through the religion and metaphysics sections for quite a while.
Because this was unusual behavior for me, notwithstanding my periodic bursts of fasting from spiritual reading (see "I abandon all hope in my book shelves").
Today, though, whatever title I touched felt lifeless, hypothetical, detached from reality. I couldn't even muster up much interest in the Atheism, Taoism, and Buddhism sections, where something usually turns me on.
What struck me after fifteen minutes or so of half-hearted page-thumbing was the same insight that I talked about in "I'm becoming my favorite book." I knew what I was looking for. And I also knew why it was so difficult to find it.
I wanted to read words that echoed my own intuitions. I wanted to buy a book that could have been written by me. The question is, "Why?"
Why do I feel the need to have someone else affirm what I consider to be true (and untrue), when part of my personal truth-telling is There's no demonstrable evidence about what, if anything, lies beyond the physical?
Today, that need wasn't very strong. Tomorrow, who knows? I'm quite sure my spiritual book-buying days aren't over. But more and more, I expect less and less from other people's words.
I hadn't been to the Border's in Salem for years. After I parked, I walked past an SUV emblazoned with "RJ Dance Studio," where my wife and I take lessons.
Lora, our instructor, was looking at some books in the vestibule. I said hello. We ended up chatting for quite a while about matters danceish.
Near the end of our conversation Lora told a story about a couple who were engaged to be married and had decided to take some dance lessons. The woman was incapable of letting her fiancée lead. She couldn't let go of the need to be in control.
Finally Lora went up to her and asked, "Do you trust him?" She said, "No."
The guy looked shocked. Lora couldn't believe it herself. Here they were, a week before their wedding, and the bride-to-be didn't trust her man to lead her around the dance floor.
"He might run into another couple. He might bump into the wall." She had all sorts of reasons for not letting him take the lead. Lora told her, "So? if this is the worst that can happen, no big deal."
Maybe this story had an effect on me when we parted and I went book-browsing. Today I felt like I trusted myself more than what authors had written. I was willing to let my own knowing, imperfect as it is, lead me through the Border's shelves.
Just as it did a few years ago.
The voluminous shelves of Christian books, ugh. Judaism, no interest. Islam and Sufism, too preachy. So I was reduced to pawing through a few square feet of Buddhist and Taoist writings, and even here I found myself replacing possible purchases almost as soon as I glanced at the front and back covers.
Dogmatic. Too personal. A rehash. Superficial. Overly intellectual.
Life is short. It's crazy to spend the few years we have on earth believing other people's spiritual beliefs, thinking other people's spiritual thoughts, commanding ourselves to follow other people's spiritual commandments.
With dancing, it makes sense to learn from instructors more skilled than yourself, because you can see the difference between what you and they can do. With religion and spirituality, though, there are few signs of accomplishment.
It's almost entirely blah, blah, blah, words, words, words. So why choose someone else's over your own?