Monday, June 6, 2011

Destroying Leibniz

On books, or even Books.

Here are some truisms: that writing down our thoughts changes them by making them permanent, that the written word has at times been too sacred to entrust to the non-cognoscenti, that some books are considered holy, that the invention of the printing press made mass social and political movements more accessible, that a literate population is a more involved one.

And some more: that knowledge moves faster than ever, that the wisdom of the ages weighs the same on line as Lindsay Lohan's driving record, that literacy involves more than than the written word, that major social movements erupt as fast as flashmobs.

People buy fewer physical books than they did. But the physicality of books is still appealing. i still own books from way back, even daft old things like the one that predicts that before the end of the twentieth century computers will make us rich and give us more leisure time. Many were bought second hand. Our dear old Smiths book shop is gone now of curse, but it really did have dusty shelves that reached to the ceiling, and triangular ladders, and tiny rooms on the third floor.

My daughter had an art project where she needed to juxtapose two unrelated themes, in her case books and rabbits. When she got a bit multi media she wanted her rabbit to leap out of the pages of a book, rip up the pages and go free. She needed a book.

We went through the most obscure shelves, and found book after book that we thought was too precious to rip up. We had almost decided that every book was in some way sacred, a talisman, a special expression of the ideas of a person, maybe from hundreds or even thousands of years ago. It seemed sacrilege. She was more reticent than i was - i have always been a bit of an iconoclast and i am defintely not a hoarder. But the deliberate destruction of a book is a serious matter. It is redolent of bad times for civil rights and freedom of thought. Remeber your Ray Bradbury. It took moral effort to choose a book. It was a little sacrifice - old art for new, the old permanence for the new ephemera. In the end we kinda took pot luck, and chose a pocket introduction to the work and life of Gottfried Leibniz. Leibniz was a 17th century philosopher and mathematician who among many things worked out the binary number system and was a pioneer of rationalism. i had had the book for decades and, i am ashamed to say, never read it.

She ripped up the book and the rabbit romped through it and out of it, and little traces of Liebniz's life and thought were spead around the art page. The rest of the book went in the recycling.

And, the thing is, if you want to know more aboout Liebniz you can just wiki him in thirty seconds.

Some minor updates - no more mice, Isis Fang was given some catnip versions to enourage her but she ignores those too. And today we had a 5.5 earthquake.

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