"I have always imagined heaven to be a kind of library." -- Jorge Luis Borges
This lovely Borges quote came to me in my Twitter feed this morning, and it seems to me to be a statement that could lead to all kinds of conversations. The simplest way to think about heaven as a "kind of library" is the bibliophilic one: An infinite collection of books.
But are those books curated, or haphazard? Is this heavenly library like the Library of Congress, containing a copy of anything and everything published in the United States? Or is it one's own particular library, filled with all of the books you've ever read?
Or all of the books you wish you had read? Etc., etc., ad infinitum (truly). You see how a bookish sort could talk about this for quite a long time.
However, I started thinking about what the phrase "a kind of library" means. A library does involve books, but it can involve other kinds of media, too. A heavenly library might be records of a life. It might be shelves of lessons we failed to learn, or joys we never experienced, or the pain of people we didn't acknowledge, or...Well, you get my drift. Now that I've read this quote, I believe I'll be thinking about it for years.
Inevitably, as I wandered through a version of my own heaven-as-library, I started wondering where the check-out desk might be (I'm dreadful about returning library books and I have authority issues; go figure). Then I thought some more (always a dangerous thing): Does God come to the library? Just to mine, or to everybody's? Is there a heaven-as-library that belongs only to me, or is there just one big library?
I told you a bookish sort could talk about this for a while.
Now, let's say that God does wander the library. Does She ever pick up a McNaughton that looks trashy just for fun? Is He trying to track down the one volume in a series He never read -- or is that not possible? Do They (hey, I'm trying to be inclusive, here) like to troll the Friends of the Library book trucks for hardcovers that cost a quarter?
What, pray tell, is on God's nightstand? To misuse Annie Dillard, that is my own Ultima Thule -- not God's tooth , but God's nightstand (since I write a regular feature called "What's On Your Nightstand," this makes a kind of sense). In her mystical yet visceral Holy the Firm, Dillard uses the concept of something God may have but surely doesn't need (His/Her/Their tooth) to stand in for the most distant, incomprehensible horror and awe (in the case of Dillard's book, a hideous tragedy involving a child).
Because things happen that we cannot understand. Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day when we honor both our living and dead military servicemembers. Many of us cannot understand why we are still losing young men and women in a war overseas. Some of us have lost husbands, wives, sons, daughters, siblings, cousins, friends, comrades...the list goes on and on.
When I think of "God's nightstand," I imagine a place where the Creator keeps an unending stack of "books" that are really souls. A "kind of library" of them, a tower of thoughts and prayers and desires and memories. Among them, of course, are those people we remember on Memorial Day. I like to think that God puts their "books" towards the top on this Monday.
I hope that no matter what you're doing today -- swimming, driving, drinking a cold lemonade -- you pause for just a moment and consider our nation's military.