I woke up yesterday morning with a fresh insight: time for the books to go. Not just the small box of giveaway books that had been sitting on a table in my bedroom for quite while.
Also, the boxes of books that had been languishing in the storage space above our carport for much longer, about fifteen or twenty years, I can't remember exactly.
Those books had a lot more sentimental value, which might explain why I hadn't thought of donating them before, even though I'd glance at the boxes every time I climbed up the dropdown ladder to get something out of the crawl space.
(Aptly named, since you have to crawl around on the sheets of plywood placed over the rafters, there not being nearly enough room to stand up.)
The eight boxes that I took this afternoon to the Friends of the Salem Public Library for their annual book sale mostly contained books that I'd used as research for three books I've written: God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder; Life is Fair; Return to the One.
Each was written in the spirit of seva, volunteer service, during the time I was a member of Radha Soami Satsang Beas, a guru-centered religious organization with headquarters in India.
So the boxes of books were sort of like a mental archaeological excavation. They contained mostly fond memories of a period in my life when I held considerably different spiritual beliefs than I have now. I took photos of the boxes before I put them in my car.
The bottom box in the photo above contained some of the books I'd used in research for my first book, God's Whisper, Creation's Thunder. I started to write it not long after Gurinder Singh Dhillon became the guru of Radha Soami Satsang Beas following the death of Charan Singh, the guru who initiated me in 1971.
I'd never even had a high school physics class, even though the book was about the relation between mysticism and the New Physics (quantum mechanics, relativity theory, etc.). It took years of reading, note taking, pondering, writing, and re-writing before the book was published by Threshold Books.
Radha Soami Satsang Beas had agreed to buy several thousand copies to resell at a low cost, which sweetened the deal enough for Threshold Books to agree to publish the book -- which they found appealing because I'd included so many Rumi quotes, and Threshold was a Sufi-oriented publisher.
Having developed a writing relationship with the folks in charge of books published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas, my next book project was Life is Fair. This effort was even more meaningful to me, since I was told that Charan Singh had wanted to have a little book describing the karmic rationale for vegetarianism that he could hand out to people.
When I was asked if I wanted to take on the project after it had stalled with other people attempting to write such a book, it took me about one millisecond to say "Yes! Absolutely." Being able to fulfill a wish of my guru before he died was a dream come true. Hey, maybe my meditation sucked, but I felt like I could write a book about karma and vegetarianism.
At times that feeling seemed like a fantasy. There were so many changes of direction and rewrites, I almost lost hope. Almost. Eventually I went to India to finish the book at the RSSB headquarters and it ended up being published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas. One of the pleasant parts of writing Life is Fair was finding cartoons to illustrate some key points in a humorous manner.
I spent a lot of time at the marvelous Powell's Books in Portland, an hour's drive north of where I lived in Salem, sitting on the floor of the Humor section, thumbing through cartoon books featuring Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert, and other comic strips.
Today I couldn't bear to let the cartoon books I'd bought go when it came time to unload the box they were in onto a library cart. Those were the only books I took home with me. I looked at a few pages and started laughing, then figured that while my spiritual/philosophical views have changed considerably, my love of humor hasn't.
The bottom box above mostly held books I'd gotten for my research into Plotinus, a Neoplatonist Greek philosopher. After Life is Fair was completed, I wrote Gurinder Singh and asked him if there were any other books I could write for Radha Soami Satsang Beas. He replied that they'd like to have a Mystics of the West series and listed some possibilities. Plotinus was one of them.
I'd heard about Plotinus but knew next to nothing about his philosophy. So even though Plotinus is notorious for being one of the most difficult Greek philosophers to understand -- his Enneads are full of confusing passages -- I dove into the deep waters of Plotinus and read every book about him in English, along with every translation of the Enneads in English.
Return to the One was quite a writing journey. After several years of work, just as with the other two books I despaired that I'd ever reach a satisfactory endpoint. But I refused to give up, telling myself that if I had to write out the book on paper bags and leave them strewn on park benches, that's what I'd do. (Yeah, unrealistic and kind of dramatic, but writers have strange ways of getting through dark periods.)
In the end, Return to the One wasn't published by Radha Soami Satsang Beas for reasons I've talked about in other blog posts. A sticking point was that the RSSB publishing department wanted me to include a quotation from Charan Singh at the beginning of each chapter. I wasn't willing to do that, since this was a book about the philosophy of Plotinus, not a book about how that philosophy could be seen as relating to the RSSB teachings. So I published the book on my own.
Anyway, I feel good about sending those eight boxes of books off to the Friends of the Salem Public Library. It was time to let the books go. I like to think that they'll end up with people who enjoy reading them as much as I did. They're filled with notes and highlighting. So whoever buys them will see what I found important, which may be quite different from what they think is important.
Lastly, a (very) minor miracle. The eight boxes fit into the not-very-large back of my Subaru Crosstrek.