Friday, June 14, 2013

Bottles and Books

Excuse the poor quality grainy photo. Our camera doesn't take very good indoor pictures, and I took this one inside the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. They've got some profound stuff on those walls.

I like books for many reasons, but when I want to wax really philosophical on you to explain the value of books, I'm going to start referencing Sterling W. Sill (fantastic name, no?). Particularly, this talk that Elder Sill gave at Brigham Young University in May of 1977. I heard a recording of this talk last year, and I listen to it again every few months because it's just so powerful.

You should probably just stop reading this post and go read (or listen) to the talk right now, but if you need me to sell it to you, let me give a brief summary. Elder Sill begins by explaining how the French government commissioned one of it's scientists in the early 19th century to come up with a way to preserve fruits and vegetables so they could be enjoyed in off seasons or even in times of famine. Thus, a method of using bottles and sealing them with heat was invented so things like peaches could be enjoyed throughout the winter months. Elder Sill says that books are the bottles of ideas, preserving the thoughts of all the great men in history so they might be enjoyed by future generations.

...While I would like all of you to have that year's supply of food that you put into bottles to protect you against the famine for bread and the thirst for water, I would also like to have you insure yourselves against mental want, emotional poverty, and moral hard times with that lifetime mental and cultural supply that has already been put into books to protect you against that more serious famine for hearing the word of the Lord, of success, of culture and faith and happiness.

 I seriously believe that what we read influences how we think, how we think influences how we act, and how we act defines who we are. As Elder Sill puts it, what a thrill to know that the greatest thoughts that have been written by the greatest men in history can run through my little mind and become my thoughts just by reading them. Yes, what a miracle that is.

Monuments fall, civilizations perish, but books continue. The perusal of a great book is, as it were, an interview with the noblest men of past ages who have written it.

Doesn't that make you want to go read Emerson and Shakespeare? Or whoever you consider to be a great thinker? Will you go read this talk already? (Actually, listen to it. He sounds like such a gem of a person.)

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