Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Lesson from a Book

I got a book in the mail today. That's nothing exceptional for me since I get most of my books from places on the internet. It may be prideful, but books I want to read aren't commonly found on the shelves of Barnes & Noble three miles down the road to the west or Borders three miles in the opposite direction. That would be great if I read thrillers and mysteries like I used to and in the quantity I used to, but aside from forays into the Harry Potter books as soon as they came out, I've felt little draw toward even the British cozies that used to be my favorite reading matter. Once in a while they still are like a cool lemon sherbet that refreshes and cleanses the palate while not taking up a lot of room in the tummy but for my normal meat-and-potatoes, I crave denser, sometimes drier fare.

I found it as advertised: looking new, dust cover still fully intact, binding tight, no underlining or highlighting, and, in short, looking like it had never been opened although there was a little wear on the back of the dust jacket. Right in the middle of the front jacket, though, was a price tag with a ridiculously low price the bookseller was asking. The bright yellow of the tag stuck on the clear red, blue and white of the dust jacket was almost an affront.

I'm prideful enough to want people to think I can afford to buy books without sale stickers. To walk around with a book that has a reduced price tag on it is almost like walking around with the price tag on a shirt or pair of jeans hanging out or having a piece of toilet paper trailing from the bottom of a shoe. People judge things based on how much they cost and how luxurious they appear to be. It's a pretty shallow way to look at things, in my opinion, but I do it myself so that makes me as guilty as the next Joe or Jane.

I couldn't wait to liberate my "new" book from the ignominious tag someone had glued on the front of it with a price that had been scratched out and a second and lower price added. The book did seem to look a bit brighter with the cheap tag removed, like it had a bit more self-respect. The colors brightened up considerably. The value of a book, for me, isn't in the price I pay for it but rather what I get from it. Maybe it’s anthropomorphic of me but I think the book senses that.

So now I have my book in my hands and I have begun reading the introduction. If it continues in the vein in which it has begun, the $1.25 price tag will have been ridiculously cheap.

People aren’t commodities like books or Hummers or Gucci bags and shoes but they are still subject to judgment of their worth based on appearance. While people don’t wear price tags visible on their foreheads, there are some who appear to me as if they’d been consigned to the “used” bin with sale prices cut to the barest minimum and some who seem to have stepped right out of the window of Tiffany. I’m guilty of making those judgments myself. I’m looking at their covers rather than at what’s inside. When I look in the mirror I see a huge price tag with a sum that could buy several pieces of penny bubble gum. Subconsciously I know God doesn’t see me that way but it’s what I see. Maybe God is just as anxious to rid me of the ugly bright-yellow sale tag on my forehead as I was to rid my book of its sticker.

Now if I could just remember to look at others at full value and without sale tags or store labels. I wish that were as easy as it is with books. Maybe that’s an unintended and unwritten lesson from the newest book in my library. We’ll see.


  1. So what is the title? great reflection -

  2. Holmes' "To Speak of God: THeology For Beginners."