Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Thought Picnic: Paper bound in leather and glue

The memory from before
“It’s only a book, paper bound in leather and glue.”
These were the words of a song I heard on a children’s programme too many decades ago for me to remember who sang it or what the name of the programme was.
However, the tune and the music were striking enough for the lyrics to stick in memory that any time I remember the song, I feel like I am watching that programme again.
The book is just what it is; paper bound in leather and glue. Yet, what is written in the book might be useful or it might be useless. The evolution of the book through history is long, from cave drawings through Egyptian papyrus, parchment, animal skins, paper, printing and now petabytes of electronic data.
Words unread are nothing
The book stands as a record unaltered, words written for posterity which might be reprinted, edited or laid waste if no desired for the knowledge contained therein endures.
The words however do not come to life of their own volition, nor does the book animate like some living thing, the words have to be read and comprehended, then in the mind of those that process the words, the book gains potency in the actions or reactions of people.
The value we place on a book should be based on the derived content brought to use by the reader, properly understood in its context, setting, relevance and intention.
Where we miss these elements, the book becomes a guide for malevolence, something misread, misunderstood or misinterpreted, something read out of context, applied to the wrong setting, finding no particular relevance or pandering to the wrong motives and the seeds of destruction are sown to reap a harvest of carnage.
Wholly unholy acts
Yet, even in these modern times, we have people of the Book, religions tied to holy tomes that appear to have all the answers to life and living, read and use to destroy life, liberty and livelihood as a demonstration of power and influence.
The barely educated wielding tyranny like a deaf child being handed a loaded machine gun and at the same time shouted at to put the gun down. The danger not being in the book itself, but in how what was apparently learnt from the book is demonstrated.
That we give the books names and titles, does not change it from it physical and material constituents, and whilst the words therein might bring great meaning to some, the body should not by that suddenly become sacred, except where the words need to be preserved, and alternatives abound.
Book your context right
For instance, if I downloaded a holy book unto my laptop and then destroyed the laptop, would I suffer as much sanction as if I burnt the book? We need to be reasonable and exercise a lot of reasonableness about the things we so easily elect to have offend us.
As a repository, the book does have value, it archives and stores knowledge, but it is not the end of the world, it is paper bound in leather and glue.

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