"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.
by on ‎05-26-2009 10:41 AM

Thanks for your inclusive thoughts, Bethanne.  I like how your mind wanders. :smileyhappy:


I see heaven's library as anything you want it to be.  Billy Graham had once said [on the Johnny Carson show], he imagined heaven as having a big 'golf course'.  I thought that was funny.


I'd never thought about a 'library', though, in any sense of the word.....But it does make sense, now that you mention it [in reference to books] - Having all the time in the world to read every book you never had 'earthly' time for, because there is never enough time in the day/night to read to your heart's desired content [and not feel guilty!].  One big card catalogue, installed in our brains, coming up!  And - not worry about who's sitting next to us on the bus/train/plane!

by Par4course on ‎05-28-2009 11:44 PM
Your mention of a "library of souls" really connected with me Bethanne, although I read this after Memorial Day.  I recently lost a dear aunt, and guilt is on my mind and in my heart for doing little more than exchanging Christmas cards with her these last few years.  Living on the other coast, and being scared to death of flying, should be good excuses for not visiting...but they're not, and I know it.  Will the library of souls include the regrets we feel towards neglected family and friends?  Will there be forgiveness, not just from God, but from those other souls?  My memories of growing up include visiting this favorite aunt and disappearing into her library, reading books.  Other family members were having discussions, sharing meals, playing games...and I hid with the books.  While I sincerely believe that heaven will have the kind of lovely library you and KathyS describe, I worry that I may still ignore those that are dear by hiding there.
by on ‎05-29-2009 01:34 AM


Don't feel guilty...you did what you thought you could do, at the time.  Guilt only plays a part in the now.  Regrets are erased from memories, I'm sure.  I can't imagine there being a file, or list of those feelings of....

what if...

or only if....

The could ofs ......

and would ofs.......


Believe me, I've done my share of hiding-out with a book!  Your aunt had to know how much you loved being in her library, and loving her in the process. 


My five year old grandson takes one or two books out of my bookcases, especially the real old looking ones [no pictures], and carries them around the house with him...he can't really  read yet, but he seems to love them.  He just looks at the pages of words.   He used to take one without my knowing it, and I'd find it beside him while he was taking a nap.   I just feel that I know he loves me for sharing them with him.  Your aunt had to know this about you, too.



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