This weekend we celebrate Independent Bookstore Day, one of my favorite of the modern made-up holidays. It’s right up there with Ice Cream for Breakfast Day (February 2) and Meteor Day (June 30).
Of course the reason independent bookstores are so wonderful is that they are full of BOOKS. And every once in a while, there’s a passage in a book that takes my breath away.
Most recently this happened during a Good Society reading with Acumen, where we reviewed an excerpt from The Grapes of Wrath. Right in the middle of the description of the “owner men,” there it was:
All of them were caught in something larger than themselves. Some of them hated the mathematics that drove them, and some were afraid, and some worshipped the mathematics because it provided a refuge from thought and from feeling.
I wanted to read on until Steinbeck made a different point, until there was another idea that did not pinch so personally, until it was time to stop reading and go on to something else.
Reading is a refuge for me, but this Steinbeck passage reminds us that there’s a fine line between refuge and escape. Much as I love spreadsheets, they are meant to reflect reality, not to replace it. Much as I love indie bookstores, the wisdom they contain is meant to supplement life, not substitute for it.
Dear friends, next time we feel a pinch, let’s practice letting the pinch sink in, even if it leaves a bruise. Let’s be sure our refuge is not retreat.