11 November 2008

i sold my pride for $19.75

I sold my pride for $19.75. Let me explain.

I am not a big guy. I don’t work out. I don’t know my way around a gym. I don’t have firm lats. I probably can’t do any corn-cob chin-ups. I’m just not worried about all of that stuff. And I am happy.

I read. I write. My reputation, my identity, has much more to do with my vocabulary than my bench press. That’s just the way it is.

So, in 2007, I basically committed identity-suicide. In preparation for our move to Africa (and in recognition of the space limitations of packing our entire life away into 4 boxes), I began giving away all of my books. I methodically dismantled my library. And when I ran out of people to give things to, I walked into Half Price Books and sold a couple of tote-bags full of books for $19.75.

It was, at times, a difficult task. I gave books on spirituality and finance to friends that I knew would appreciate them. I donated all of my leftist tomes and Chomsky volumes to an underground book co-op in a downtown coffee shop. I gave African memoirs to potential missionaries. I gave leadership texts to people who had the slightest glimmer of future ability.

With every book that left my hands, a little piece of my misplaced identity was killed. I had shelves full of books. High literature and academic texts. Cheap fiction and deep histories. Roosevelt’s Secret War, The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, The Andromeda Strain...all gone.

I had been collecting all that I read for years. And I read voraciously. The books were colorful and wonderful, marked up and dog-eared monuments to my learning journey. They were fantastic decorations, a rainbow of jackets that announced to the world that someone in that house was oh-so-intelligent.

I walked out of the used book store with less than $20 for all of the thousands of hours of time that I had put into that journey. More than that, I walked out of the used book store with a sense of freedom. I was no longer bound to those hunks of ink-stained paper lining the walls. I was free to seek out new journeys and to devote that now vacuous space to something greater.

Of course, the irony of selling your pride is that you are then proud of that sale.

That is why this is a journey, I suppose.

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