“A Book is an Axe for the Frozen Sea Inside Us.” — Franz Kafka
If you're reading this, chances are you're a Bibliophile, someone who loves books, rather than a Bibliophobe, someone who fears books. Perhaps you're even a Bibliosopher, someone who gains wisdom from books.
Or maybe, like me, you're a Bibliophile and a Logophile, someone who loves words and can spend hours researching a word's definition to find deeper meaning.
Regardless, those who appreciate books and words will be thrilled to hear about the new library being planned at the Modern Elder Academy Sunmount Campus in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The historic Sunmount Chapel, which has provided comfort and inspiration to so many people over the years, is being repurposed into a magnificent library that will undoubtedly continue to provide the same comfort and inspiration to those who travel to MEA to design the next chapter of their lives.
The interior design is inspired by Henry Higgins' library in the movie My Fair Lady. Henry was not only a Bibliophile but also an Anglophile, a lover of the English language
The magic of books and libraries is beautifully articulated by James Baldwin in his seven-and-a-half-hour conversation with Margaret Mead in 1970, quoted here from Maria Popova’s newsletter and adventure in reading, The Marginalian. Baldwin talks about how books go beyond what Kafka believed books could do for us — serve as “the axe for the frozen sea inside us” — and go further, turning books into an axe for the frozen sea between us.
“Then I started reading. I read everything I could get my hands on, murder mysteries, The Good Earth, everything. By the time I was thirteen, I had read myself out of Harlem. There were two libraries in Harlem, and by the time I was thirteen I had read every book in both libraries and I had a card downtown for Forty-Second Street… What I had to do then was bring the two things together: the possibilities the books suggested and the impossibilities of the life around me… Dickens meant a lot to me, for example, because there was a rage in Dickens which was also in me… And Uncle Tom’s Cabin meant a lot to me because there was a rage in her which was somehow in me. Something I recognized without knowing what I recognized.”
Sometimes, I feel lonely when I read a book because I want to share it with someone, but I know that I'll be met with a blank stare. Even worse, when I lend a book, it may never be returned or be returned with a lackluster response like "I enjoyed it." Is that all? This book changed my life, and that's all you can say?
To remedy this, I'm going to take some of my books, write my name and a brief note to future readers inside the front cover, and donate them to the library at MEA Sunmount. There, curious life-long learners will appreciate the books as much as I did. And if I miss my books, I can always buy more.
If you're a Bibliotaphe, one who buries or hides books, a Biblioriptos, one who throws books around, or a Bibliomane, one who accumulates books indiscriminately, consider becoming a Bibliophilanthropist and donate some of your books to this beautiful library. Your books will provide information and inspiration to thousands of people in the years to come.
Send your books via Media Mail at the U.S. Post Office to:
50 Mount Carmel Road
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87505
Then, plan a trip to Santa Fe in the next year or so, and sit in this sacred space and become a Bibliolater, one who worships books.
“Books are becoming everything to me. If I had at this moment any choice of life, I would bury myself in one of those immense libraries . . . and never pass a waking hour without a book before me.” —Thomas B. Macaulay
Pat Whitty is a five-time alumnus at MEA and one of the moderators of our Corazon Third Act group. He was the owner of the Dale Carnegie Training franchise in South Texas for over 20 years introducing hundreds of people to the classic book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He is currently working with Senior Planet/AARP teaching seniors how to enrich their lives by learning how to use technology along with a weekly online discussion group called Finding Purpose, Wellbeing, and Community after 60. He attributes his curiosity, love of learning, good health, and longevity to his involvement with MEA.