Categorized | Kamin_Ben_Rabbi

Shuttering Borders also closes mental frontiers

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By Rabbi Ben Kamin

Rabbi Ben Kamin

SAN DIEGO — It isn’t that one is specifically sentimental about the corporate
vicissitudes of this or that major book chain, though a great many real human
lives are being affected badly by the downfall of Borders Group Inc.  The
closing of 400 stores is about to throw 11,000 employees into the terrible
upheaval that is now endemic to American life.  (Statistics:
Reuters)  These are people, their kids, loans, tuitions, groceries,
utility bills, mortgage, and rent payments.

This major mercantile report should not cast a shadow, either, on the countless
deaths of small, privately-owned, family, neighborhood book shops that have
accelerated the decline of our reading culture and further marginalized human
interaction in the world of words.   As an author of limited
standing, but an author nonetheless, I am deeply saddened for the continuing dearth
of spaces where I might discuss and showcase my next book.  It’s not about
my own public relations—I keep day jobs.  Those good folks at the
bookstore around the corner have lost their jobs, even as reading has
lost the day.

Someone once said that books have
souls.  There just isn’t any replacement for the feel, smell, and
three-dimensional presence of books.  Real books have colors, weight, and
a place somewhere.  They live on shelves, counters, bathroom bins, in
cars, drawers, backpacks, picnic baskets, and in the indelible crawl space of
human memory.  They fill libraries and are exchanged, like record albums
once were, as spiritual contracts between lovers.

Books invite inscriptions, noted
arguments, the good stains of fingerprints, and one’s own musings on the
margins.  You actually put your signature in a book and when you highlight
something, an unforgettable phrase or sentence, a cheerful smudge of the yellow
or blue highlighter on your hand confirms that you were there.

The end of Borders is a major battle
lost in the war of attrition against reading, conversation, small lectures, and
that luscious aroma of coffee, wisdom, lingering, and ideas that once defined
the life of peaceful gatherings with familiar faces and suddenly acquired
friends.

How much have we really gained by
going digital?  We have smart phones, but dumber folks.

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